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In the news today: Ontario to need 33K more nurses by 2032, ministry says

Ontario will need 33,200 more nurses and 50,853 more personal support workers by 2032, the government projects -- figures it tried to keep secret but were obtained by The Canadian Press. A nurse walks through a hallway at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre’s Schulich Heart Centre in Toronto, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Here is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to bring you up to speed on what you need to know today...

Ontario to need 33K more nurses by 2032: ministry

Ontario will need 33,200 more nurses and 50,853 more personal support workers by 2032, the government projects — figures it tried to keep secret but were obtained by The Canadian Press.

The government recently won a fight in front of the Information and Privacy Commissioner to keep those figures under wraps after denying access to them to Global News following a freedom-of-information request from the outlet.

But the same FOI office made the information available to The Canadian Press through a separate request, a situation critics say exposes the frailties and arbitrariness of the access-to-information system.

The projections of nurses and PSWs the province will need — above and beyond those currently being educated through the system — are not surprising to the unions representing workers in the health-care system, who have been sounding the alarm for years about shortages.

Here's what else we're watching...

Wind could push fire into B.C. town today

A fire behaviour specialist with the B.C. Wildfire Service says an intense wildfire could hit Fort Nelson this morning, based on forecasts that have been calling for strong winds that have been fuelling the out-of-control blaze to continue throughout the day.

Ben Boghean said in a video posted to social media Sunday night that the extreme fire behaviour, made worse by years of drought and a below-normal snowpack this past winter, could end up threatening the crews that have been fighting the Parker Lake wildfire.

Rob Fraser, mayor of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality based in Fort Nelson, said yesterday that fire crews and emergency workers are preparing a "last stand" if the fire advances into the town.

The wildfire threatening Fort Nelson continues to grow, with the most recent update late Sunday night indicating it had swelled to nearly 53 square kilometres.

Pandemic flight refunds still a contested issue

The controversy over whether airlines owed refunds to passengers after cancelling hundreds of thousands of flights during the pandemic continues to simmer four years on, aggravated by a sluggish complaints process that remains opaque.

A recent ruling from the Canadian Transportation Agency found that a couple was not entitled to a refund because they chose to cancel their 2020 booking — for a flight the airline had already cancelled.

In a confidential decision obtained by The Canadian Press, a complaints resolution officer at the regulator said the two passengers qualified for no more than a voucher because they called off their reservation with WestJet and their ticket excluded reimbursement in such instances.

However, WestJet’s policies at the time stated that in the event of disruptions outside the carrier’s control, customers “will be refunded” in the original form of payment should they turn down an alternate travel route.

In an email, transportation agency spokesman Jadrino Huot says refund obligations a few years ago came down to the conditions attached to the ticket, since airlines were not required to reimburse in force majeure situationsuntil an update to the passenger rights charter in 2022.

However, passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs says precedents going back two decades established refund rights in such circumstances and that, either way, the tickets’ conditions require reimbursement.

WestJet did not respond to requests for comment.

Freedom Convoy organizer Pat King's trial begins

The criminal trial of Pat King, one of the most prominent figures associated with the 2022 Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa, is expected to begin Monday.

King was part of the original group of organizers that brought thousands of big-rig trucks and other vehicles to Ottawa in January of that year to protest COVID-19 public health measures.

They also spoke out against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government.

For weeks, the smell of diesel fumes suffused the city's downtown core as massive crowds chanted "freedom" to a raucous chorus of air horns at all hours of the day and night.

Protesters blocked intersections around Parliament Hill and the surrounding area, and set up encampments complete with food tents and open fires.

Local politicians described the state of downtown Ottawa during the demonstration as a lawless occupation of the capital, as several businesses closed and residents described feeling uneasy leaving their homes.

King was outspoken throughout the demonstration, and documented his experience with frequent livestreams on social media. Many of those videos are expected to be entered as evidence during his criminal trial.

He is charged with mischief, counselling others to commit mischief, disobeying a court order and obstructing police for his role in the demonstration, which ultimately ended in a massive police operation.

The federal government also invoked the Emergencies Act in an effort to force protesters off the streets.

Serial killer trial to hear more police testimony

The Winnipeg trial of admitted serial killer Jeremy Skibicki is expected to hear testimony today from a police officer who examined video surveillance.

Court has heard police collected video evidence showing someone placing several bags in various garbage bins in Skibicki's neighbourhood shortly before the remains of one of his victims was found.

Skibicki has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder for the 2022 slayings of Rebecca Contois, Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran and an unidentified women Indigenous leaders have named Buffalo Woman.

His lawyers have said he killed the women, but they argue he's not criminally responsible due to mental illness.

Crown prosecutors say the killings were racially motivated, with Skibicki a self-proclaimed white supremacist who preyed on the vulnerable women at homeless shelters.

Court has heard DNA from three of the victims, as well as some of their clothing and jewelry, was found in Skibicki's home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2024.

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