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MSI Expects GPU Shipments to Continue Dropping, May Raise Prices in 2021

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Buying a video card has been an exercise in futility for the last year, and don’t hold your breath for it to get better anytime soon. During a recent investor call, MSI chairman Joseph Hsu said the company expects the supply of video cards and other in-demand gaming components will continue to drop. MSI points to dropping shipments from both Nvidia and AMD as the primary culprit, and as a result, GPU prices could increase even before they get to the resellers who are charging an arm and a leg. 

Currently, you’d be extremely lucky to find a GPU in stock at any reputable retailer. The listings available online are almost all resellers who have used bots and other sketchy methods to vacuum up the very limited supply. Then they’ll sell those cards for as much as double MSRP, and people will pay it. For example, if you wanted to pick up an RTX 3090 that should retail for around $ 700, you’ll probably have to pay about twice that. That’s if you can find one! Even scalpers are starting to come up dry. 

MSI says that its 2020 sales rose by 30 to 50 percent compared with 2019. Although profits in the final quarter of the year were softer than expected, the company still saw its highest annual profits ever. The problem going forward is that 53 percent of MSI’s revenue comes from GPU sales. With shipments expected to continue dropping, MSI says it’ll probably have to charge more for each card. The situation is unlikely to improve in 2021. MSI has projected interest in GPUs, motherboards, and gaming notebooks will continue to rise at double-digit rates. 

The shortage is the result of numerous interconnected events, all conspiring to make gaming hardware obscenely expensive. There’s the pandemic, which has made gaming a more attractive way to pass the time. The global disruptions stemming from COVID-19 also affected supply chains, leading to semiconductor shortages. Technically, it exacerbated a problem that already existed, but the results are the same. 

At the same time, the increasing price of cryptocurrency has made GPU-based mining profitable again, prompting miners to scoop up many of the cards intended for gaming. Nvidia hopes its upcoming CMP cards will loosen demand a bit. These cards are specifically designed for crypto mining — they don’t even have video outputs. Nvidia also said CMP production would not further reduce its shipments of gaming cards, but it’s just not a great time to be a gamer.

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ExtremeTechGaming – ExtremeTech

COVID-19 again? Reinfection cases raise concerns over immunity

The case of a man in the United States infected twice with the virus that causes COVID-19 shows there is much yet to learn about immune responses and also raises questions over vaccination, scientists said on Tuesday.

The 25-year-old from Reno, Nev., tested positive in April after showing mild symptoms, then got sick again in late May with a more serious bout, according to a case report in the Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal.

The report was published just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 earlier this month, said he felt “so powerful” and believes he now has immunity.

Scientists said that while known incidences of reinfection appear rare — and the Nevada man has now recovered — cases like his were worrying. Other isolated cases of reinfection have been reported around the world, including in Asia and Europe.

In the Netherlands, the National Institute for Public Health confirmed on Tuesday that an 89-year-old Dutch woman, also sick with a rare form of bone marrow cancer, had recently died after contracting COVID-19 for a second time.

Dutch media said this was the first known case worldwide of a death after SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus reinfection.

Vaccine implications

“It is becoming increasingly clear that reinfections are possible, but we can’t yet know how common this will be,” said Simon Clarke, a microbiology expert at Britain’s Reading University.

“If people can be reinfected easily, it could also have implications for vaccination programs as well as our understanding of when and how the pandemic will end.”

The Nevada patient’s doctors, who first reported the case in a non-peer-reviewed paper in August, said sophisticated testing showed that the virus strains associated with each bout of infection were genetically different.

WATCH | Reinfections raise questions about COVID-19 vaccine efforts:

Three confirmed cases of COVID-19 reinfection raise concerns about how common it might be and how effective a vaccine will be as the virus appears to mutate. 1:57

“These findings reinforce the point that we still do not know enough about the immune response to this infection,” said Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at Britain’s University of East Anglia.

Brendan Wren, a professor of vaccinology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the Nevada case was the fifth confirmed example of reinfection worldwide.

“The demonstration that it is possible to be reinfected by SARS-CoV-2 may suggest that a COVID-19 vaccine may not be totally protective,” he said. “However, given the [more than] 40 million cases worldwide, these small examples of reinfection are tiny and should not deter efforts to develop vaccines.”

World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic concurred that the U.S. case underlined what was unknown about immunity.

“This also really is an argument against what some have been advocating, and that’s building naturally what is called herd immunity. Because we don’t know,” Jasarevic told a briefing. 

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CBC | Health News

Plagued with problems, Georgia primaries raise concerns about November U.S. presidential election

Voters endured heat, pouring rain and waits as long as five hours on Tuesday to cast ballots in Georgia, demonstrating a fierce desire to participate in the democratic process while raising questions about the emerging battleground state’s ability to manage elections in November when the White House is at stake.

A confluence of events disrupted primary elections for president, U.S. Senate and dozens of other contests.

The polls were staffed by fewer workers because of concerns about the coronavirus. A reduced workforce contributed to officials consolidating polling places, which disproportionately affected neighbourhoods with high concentrations of people of colour. Long lines were also reported in whiter suburban areas.

Some voters said they requested mail-in ballots that never arrived, forcing them to go to polling places and adding to the lines. Turnout, meanwhile, may be higher than expected as voters said they were determined to vote following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., and the ensuing demonstrations that swept cities including Atlanta.

Former U.S. vice-president Joe Biden easily won the state’s Democratic presidential primary. He was facing no real opposition but hoped to post a strong showing among Georgia’s diverse electorate to show his strength heading into the general election.

There was also trouble with Georgia’s new voting system that combines touch screens with scanned paper ballots.

Voters wait in a line that stretched around the Metropolitan Library in Atlanta. (Steve Schaefer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via The Associated Press)

The developments were troubling heading into the fall presidential campaign, which will attract even more voters. President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden are expected to fiercely compete in this rapidly changing state. That leaves officials, who have already been criticized for attempting to suppress the vote, with less than five months to turn things around.

The state’s chief elections officer, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, announced plans to investigate voting problems that plagued Fulton and DeKalb counties, where roughly half the population is black.

Investigation ordered

Republican House Speaker David Ralston directed leaders of the House Governmental Affairs Committee to investigate the “unacceptable deficiencies” across the state, particularly in Fulton County.

Benaiah Shaw, who joined the protests against police brutality after Floyd’s death, said he votes in every election but had never waited as long as he did on Tuesday — five hours.

“It’s really disheartening to see a line like this in an area with predominantly black residents,” said Shaw, a 25-year-old African American. He said he was appalled by how few voting machines were available.

Americans were also voting in primaries in West Virginia, Nevada and South Carolina. But the tumult in Georgia garnered much of the attention, reinforcing concerns about managing elections amid the coronavirus.

The Biden campaign called the voting problems in Georgia “completely unacceptable,” and a threat to American values of free and fair elections.

“We only have a few months left until voters around the nation head to the polls again, and efforts should begin immediately to ensure that every Georgian — and every American — is able to safely exercise their right to vote,” said Rachana Desai Martin, the campaign’s national director for voter protection and senior counsel.

Long waits in Wisconsin, Washington

Voters were also forced to wait hours to cast ballots in recent primary contests across Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. While there were no reports of machine malfunctions in other states on Tuesday, the number of voting places was dramatically reduced in virtually every state that has held in-person voting in recent weeks to accommodate a drop in poll workers.

Even before Georgia voters ran into problems, Raffensperger warned that results may be slow to come in because of poll closures and virus restrictions.

Outside a recreation centre being used as a polling site in Atlanta, some voters said they had been waiting for nearly four hours in a line that wrapped around the block. At another site off Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, several people walked up, looked at the line wrapped around the parking lot and then left, shaking their heads in frustration.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said voters in line at one of Atlanta’s largest precincts reported all the machines were down. She encouraged voters not to give up.

“If you are in line, PLEASE do not allow your vote to be suppressed,” the mayor tweeted.

Georgia being closely watched

The problems weren’t just limited to the Atlanta area. In Savannah, Mayor Van Johnson said he was “inundated” with phone calls Tuesday morning from voters reporting “extensive delays.” Election officials in surrounding Chatham County said voting hours at 35 precincts were being extended by two hours.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said he wasn’t surprised that Georgia had voting problems given that the state’s elections chief is a Republican. He noted that Republican Gov. Brian Kemp faced allegations of suppressing votes when he oversaw the 2018 elections as secretary of state.

“Republicans want to ensure that it is as hard as possible for people to vote,” Perez said in an interview.

Kemp was largely silent about the voting problems on Tuesday, aside from retweeting a message from his wife urging people to vote.

Georgia hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992, but the state is being closely watched by Trump and Biden. The former vice president, in particular, hopes to emerge as the prime beneficiary of energy from the African American community and its white allies, who have held massive protests for more than a week.

His path to the presidency was already focused on maximizing black turnout and expanding his alliance with white suburbanites and city dwellers, young voters, Asian Americans and Latinos. Trump, meanwhile, hoped to demonstrate strength among his base of white voters in small towns while holding his own in metro areas.

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B.C. teachers raise alarm about going back to classes after COVID-19 cases in Quebec schools

As students from across British Columbia head back to class on a voluntary basis today, some teachers say their employer is giving them little choice but to return to work in what they call an unsafe environment. 

This comes after at least 41 staff and students in Quebec tested positive for COVID-19 in the first two weeks after elementary schools outside the Montreal area reopened.

“I find it really unfortunate and very offensive, actually, because I think parents have the right to know [that] we can’t ensure that your kids are going to be socially distant all day in a classroom,” said one teacher from the North Vancouver School District.

CBC News has agreed not to name the teacher as she fears speaking out could cost her her job.

She has mapped out her class with measuring tape and says there’s not enough space for kids socially distance in it. Other than directional tape on the floor, she says, there’s no other means to help kids keep a safe distance.

Staggered schedules

The North Vancouver School District told CBC News that while the directive to stay two metres apart should be followed, “it may not be feasible and is not expected at all times in the school setting.”

The district added that classroom composition has been arranged “in thoughtful ways” with staggered schedules to reduce density with more time outside.

B.C.’s Ministry of Education said limits on the number of children “should help kids social distance.” For kindergarten to Grade 5, up to 50 per cent of students are allowed in the school at once. In higher grades, the limit is just 20 per cent.

The ministry added that some classrooms will need to be amalgamated to make up for some teachers not returning. 

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has dismissed concerns about schools reopening. “We know how to deal with this, we know that it is not easily spread, and we know we can prevent it by putting in place the measures that we have in our schools.”  

Teachers seeking accommodations

Teachers who do not feel safe returning say they feel there’s little choice. 

The North Vancouver teacher says her employer is providing little accommodation even for those who are immune-compromised. That means instead of being able to work from home, teachers who feel unsafe to go back or who cannot access childcare, in some cases must go on unpaid leave or use sick days. 

Nicole Jarvis, a teacher at the École Salish Secondary School thinks reopening is a good idea but doesn’t think everyone should be forced to return to the workplace.

“I am deeply hoping that colleagues who have requested work from home accommodations will be granted so,” Jarvis said.

It’s something the B.C. Teachers Federation also has concerns about.

“It’s been a bit of a struggle, because the reasons why people are seeking accommodations [are] different under a pandemic, including child care being closed because because of COVID-19,” said Terri Mooring, president of the B.C. Teachers Federation.

Nicole Jarvis is a teacher at the École Salish Secondary School. She personally feels excited to return to class but hopes teachers who do not feel it is safe won’t be forced to return. (Nicole Jarvis )

Mooring added that the problem of teachers being granted accommodation in a timely manner is that there is a much larger number of teachers seeking it in a very short time period. 

But she said that “it is incumbent upon the employer to provide accommodations to members with appropriate medical information from their doctor to the point of undue hardship.” 

B.C. School Trustees Association president Stephanie Higginson says not every person who doesn’t want to return to work will be accommodated.

“It’s just not possible, nor would it be the responsible thing to do,” said Higginson.

She stresses that public health officials and scientists have deemed B.C. classes safe to return to. 

No budget increase

The Ministry of Education said there will be no budget increases to support teachers or custodians for the June reopening, however according to Higginson and Mooring, districts are getting creative.

According to Mooring, since the pandemic hit and schools closed, some now have a surplus after needing fewer supply teachers and fewer bus drivers, for example. She says some of that surplus can be used for additional custodians and cleaning supplies.

British Columbia Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring says there is a large number of teachers seeking accommodation in a short time period. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

Other districts have moved custodial schedules.  

“We’ve switched the shifts so our night-time cleaning staff is doing the cleaning in the day and then we’ll have more of a skeleton crew on at night,” said Jarvis, who is also a union representative with local 36 of the BCTF.

She also added that teachers can ask the custodians for cleaning supplies if they want to do extra cleaning in high-traffic areas. 

Teachers won’t be provided with personal protective equipment, according to their employer, but they are able to bring their own, saying provincial health guidelines say that hand washing and surface cleaning are more effective at combating the virus.

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CBC | Health News

Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies, a former refugee, helping raise funds for UN relief

Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies says his message to young players is “just be themselves.”

“Every time they step on the field, play hard and know how to play with a smile on your face because when you play with a smile on your face, that’s when you play your best,” he told a Bayern Munich video news conference Tuesday. “Don’t worry about what’s going happen, just be in the moment, enjoy it.”

The 19-year-old from Edmonton said he welcomes being a role model to young kids and wants to put his platform to good use.

Davies joined AC Milan goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who like Davies came to Canada as a refugee, in a soccer video-game contest on the weekend to raise COVID-19 relief funds for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a UN agency with the mandate to protect and help refugees.

Asked about playing real games behind closed doors because of the global pandemic, Davies said “if it happens, it’s just going to be different.”

“The fans are part of us but it’s for the safety of everyone, I guess. So I don’t really mind it,” he added.

Bundesliga teams are back training, under physical distancing conditions, and the league hopes to restart in May.

Davies signed a new deal earlier this month that will keep the Canadian international with the German powerhouse through 2025.

WATCH | Davies’ goal sparks Canada upset over U.S.:

Teenage sensation Alphonso Davies scored in Canada’s 2-0 win over the United States in Toronto. 1:17

Asked about his progress at left back, Davies deflected the praise.

“On a personal standpoint I’m proud of my achievement but I think right now it’s all because of the team I’m with. The team is playing well. Everyone’s playing well. And I also have a world-class left back (David Alaba) next to me, helping me out as well.”

Alaba, an Austrian international, has shifted to central defender at Bayern.

A former winger, Davies says he is enjoying playing left back and doesn’t anticipate changing positions.

He said his German is “coming along” but will require a lot more lessons to perfect the language.

He said the player he looked up to the most is Lionel Messi, with Cristiano Ronaldo another top talent.

Quizzed on fellow Canadian Jonathan David, Davies said the high-scoring Gent forward “has a lot of qualities.”

David has been linked with a move to Germany from Belgium.

“I think if he moved over here there’d be no problem for him to play at this level,” Davies said.

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Wuhan health officials raise death toll linked to COVID-19 by 50%

At least 50 per cent more people died in China’s virus epicentre of Wuhan than previously counted, with state media on Friday attributing the initial undercount to how overwhelmed the health system was coping with thousands of sick patients.

The addition of 1,290 victims raised Wuhan’s death toll to 3,869, the most in China, and may confirm suspicions that far more people died in the city where the illness began than has been previously announced.

The total confirmed cases in the city of 11 million people also increased by 325 to 50,333, accounting for about two-thirds of China’s total 82,367 announced cases.

The revised Wuhan figures raised China’s death toll to 4,632, up from 3,342 announced by the National Health Commission on Friday morning.

The official Xinhua News Agency quoted an unidentified official with Wuhan’s epidemic and prevention and control headquarters as saying that during the early stages of the outbreak, “due to the insufficiency in admission and treatment capability, a few medical institutions failed to connect with the disease prevention and control system in time, while hospitals were overloaded and medics were overwhelmed with patients.

A woman who recovered from the COVID-19 coronavirus infection is disinfected by volunteers as she arrives at a hotel for a 14-day quarantine March 1 after being discharged from a hospital in Wuhan. The revised Wuhan figures, released Friday, raised China’s death toll to 4,632, up from 3,342. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

“As a result, belated, missed and mistaken reporting occurred,” the official was quoted as saying.

The new figures were compiled by comparing data from Wuhan’s epidemic prevention and control system, the city funeral service, the municipal hospital authority, and nucleic acid testing to “remove double-counted cases and fill in missed cases,” the official was quoted as saying.

Deaths occurring outside hospitals had not been registered previously and some medical institutions had confirmed cases but reported them late or not at all, the official said.

WHO under fire

Questions have long swirled around the accuracy of China’s case reporting, with Wuhan in particular going several days in January without reporting new cases or deaths. That has led to accusations that Chinese officials were seeking to minimize the impact of the outbreak and wasting opportunities to bring it under control in a shorter time.

A group of eight medical workers, including a doctor who later died of the virus, were even threatened by police for trying to alert people about the disease over social media.

Chinese officials have stridently denied covering up cases, saying their reports were accurate and timely. However, the U.N.’s World Health Organization has come under criticism for defending China’s handling of the outbreak and President Donald Trump is suspending funding to the WHO over what he alleges is its pro-China bias.

Trump’s blaming of China came after he initially spent weeks showered praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping over the country’s performance in the pandemic, while largely dismissing the risk it posed to the U.S.

At the start of the outbreak, China proceeded cautiously and largely in secret, emphasizing political stability and the leadership of Xi’s ruling Communist Party.

More than 3,000 people had been infected before China’s government told the public that a pandemic was likely, something officials had concluded six days earlier.

The risk of sustained human-to-human transmission was also downplayed, even while infected people entered hospitals across the country and the first case outside China was found, in Thailand.

Officials even sought to shift blame to the U.S. for the outbreak, with foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeting without evidence on March 12: “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan … US owe us an explanation!”

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Flames, Oilers fans raise nearly $20,000 for charity after Tkachuk-Kassian skirmish

From fighting comes… philanthropy?

The Battle of Alberta got nasty on Saturday as Oilers forward Zack Kassian and Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk traded barbs during Calgary’s 4-3 win over Edmonton.

The fallout from the game, which featured some questionable Tkachuk hits before Kassian’s retaliatory attack, included a two-game suspension for the latter and nothing for the former.

An unhappy Kassian later said he has “a long memory” and “that gave me some clarity about what you can do and can’t do now,” in reference to the lack of supplemental discipline against Tkachuk.

Flames fans disagreed, and started a fundraising campaign to place billboards with Tkachuk’s face plastered on them across Edmonton.

When the campaign reached $ 3,053 in less than 24 hours, surpassing its $ 2,500 goal, a local radio station stepped in to say it would handle the billboards, and the fundraiser money would now be directed toward ALS research. That GoFundMe page now says it has raised $ 3,738.

Like Kassian, Oilers fans felt the need to strike back. On Tuesday, Twitter user @SamInYEG posted a donation receipt to the charity Brown Bagging For Calgary’s Kids “so that kids can get a proper meal and grow up to be tougher than Tkachuk.”

On Wednesday, @SamInYEG posted an update that Brown Bagging had received 169 donations totalling $ 6520.88 and over 3,000 lunches — in less than 24 hours.

Her latest Twitter update revealed more than $ 10,000 had gone to the charity. Dragon’s Den personality W. Brett Wilson also pledged to match donations up to that number, as well as another $ 5,000 to the Edmonton shelter of @SamInYeg’s choosing.

Combined with the Calgary efforts, that’s nearly $ 20,000 in donations as a result of a relatively minor skirmish in the Battle of Alberta.

The Flames and Oilers next meet on Jan. 29, when Kassian will have returned from suspension.

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Proposed P.E.I. vaping bill seeks to strictly regulate products, raise age limit to 21

P.E.I. could soon have some of the strictest vaping laws in the country.

A private members bill from PC MLA Cory Deagle passed second reading in the P.E.I. Legislature Tuesday night. The bill would restrict where vaping products can be sold, ban certain flavours, and also raise the legal age to buy tobacco and e-cigarettes from 19 to 21.

Deagle said he wants to make vaping products less accessible to young people, especially teenagers.

“These substances, you become addicted to nicotine. In some cases there four or five, 20 times the amount of nicotine in an e-cigarette than there is in a regular cigarette,” said Deagle.

“Teachers, principals have told me it’s an epidemic in schools. And obviously with our youth tobacco rate double the national average and seeing a 74 per cent increase in vaping amongst youth in Canada, I think we have to do something.”

The vote on the second reading was unanimous, with MLAs from all parties speaking in support of it. The discussion included the possibility of new taxes being introduced in the spring budget.

If the bill passes third reading and becomes law, P.E.I. would have the highest age restriction in the country.

Deagle said the bans on flavoured products would not come into effect right away. Those would be done through regulations in cabinet, which he said would likely be a year-long process.

More P.E.I. news

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Foster family fights for pay to raise child who needs 24/7 care

She’s sweet like honey and fierce like a badger, they say. That’s why Trevor and Erin McLellan nicknamed their six-year-old foster daughter “Honey Badger.”

The girl has had thousands of epileptic seizures in her short lifetime and is mentally and physically disabled.

“She fights every day just to stay alive. She is the fiercest, most determined little girl,” Erin said. “I am humbled to be her mother.”

CBC has chosen not to identify the foster girl. She will be referred to as Leah, which is not her real name.

The McLellans decided to go public after a dispute with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Social Services (MSS) over how much they are compensated to look after Leah. The parents say the government is exploiting their love for their foster daughter, while the ministry says it wouldn’t be fair to other foster parents if they were to receive exceptional payments.

Quit his full-time job

An existing policy already allows the ministry to approve discretionary pay for foster parents, in order to keep their foster children out of institutions.

“Exceptional payments should not exceed half of the cost for comparable institutional care,” states Section 6.4 of the Children’s Services manual.

Institutional care can cost up to $ 21,000 a month, according to MSS. The McLellans are not seeking half of that.

The couple says they want only enough compensation to provide for Leah’s specialized care without seeking outside employment, which they say is nearly impossible for them to maintain.

She doesn’t know anybody’s name, except for us. Except for Mommy and Daddy.– Trevor McLellan, foster parent

Leah’s medical emergencies forced Trevor to miss so much work that he quit his full-time job, giving up his benefits, and moved to two part-time jobs.

Social services had provided the foster parents with $ 1,900 a month for nearly six years. After their application for more compensation, ministry officials granted the couple an additional $ 522 a month.

The couple says they aren’t able to pay the bills or support their family on that.

“The ministry counts on you keeping quiet and doing what you need to do, and struggling, and saving them money,” Trevor said. 

Two days old

Trevor and Erin have always dreamed of a full house and today their home in rural Saskatchewan is a bustling hub for seven children — a mix of biological, adopted and foster — ranging from ages three to 14.

The McLellans brought Leah home from the hospital when she was just two days old. She had her first epileptic seizure five months later and was diagnosed with a rare, life-limiting disease.

“We know this disease will kill her. We don’t know when. She could live 10 years. She could live 10 hours,” Erin said.

The couple pursued adoption for awhile, but had to abandon the idea when they realized Leah needed to remain a ward of the province to cover her expensive care needs.

The McLellans’ foster child has had thousands of epileptic seizures in her short lifetime. (Submitted by Erin McLellan)

Leah is now six years old, but has the cognitive abilities of a toddler. She is fed liquids through a tube in her stomach.

On a good day, she giggles, plays with puzzles and watches Dora The Explorer. She can even go to school under the supervision of a continuing care aide.

But on a bad day she is unable to walk, and cries constantly. She bangs her head against the wall, eats her hair and repeatedly suffers violent seizures. 

Someone must watch over Leah at all times, even monitoring her oxygen levels and heart rate when she’s sleeping.

At one point, Erin was so sleep-deprived that she dozed off and missed one of Leah’s seizures. She later broke down sobbing in her doctor’s office. From that point on, a provincial home-care nurse has provided the McLellans with some relief between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

‘She is our world’

Recorded meetings with social services case workers and directors verify that MSS has said that the McLellans do an “amazing” job.

“We couldn’t turn our backs on her anymore than we could our other children,” Erin said. “She is our world.”

Erin admits caring for Leah can be “scary”, but both she and Trevor want to be the primary caregivers, rather than outsourcing to support staff paid by the ministry.

“We feel that shipping her off to other homes and other places of respite just so we can struggle to make ends meet with other jobs, it’s hard on her,” Trevor said. “She doesn’t know anybody’s name, except for us. Except for Mommy and Daddy.

“We’ve often felt that if she were to be removed from our home and just put in an institution … she wouldn’t survive.”

Erin McLellan has spent years learning medical interventions for epileptic seizures in order to save her foster daughter’s life (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

Application denied

Erin applied for the exceptional payments in February.

CBC News reviewed three hours of audio recordings from several meetings between ministry staff and the McLellans.

Initially, case workers told the McLellans that they would likely qualify for more money using a formula for exceptional payments. But in June, a manager informed the McLellans that those workers made a mistake, that a formula wouldn’t be used and that their application was denied.

The executive director of Child and Family Programs, Tobie Eberhardt, stated in a letter to the McLellans that policy 6.4 is “not clear in intent and will be reviewed.”

In a statement to CBC News, Eberhardt said fewer than 10 families in the province receive exceptional pay, and it’s only provided when supports — such as babysitting, meal preparation and house cleaning — are not available in the community.

Fostering isn’t a job

Ministry officials said the government doesn’t pay foster parents enough to support a family, and that exceptional payments aren’t fair to other foster parents. They also said the government won’t compensate foster parents for work that would be performed by others. 

It’s frustrating, says Trevor, that the ministry will pay a house cleaner and nanny but refuses to pay him, as a foster parent, to do the same tasks.

The executive director of the Saskatchewan Foster Families Association, Deb Davies, wouldn’t comment on this case specifically. Davies says the group advocates for “fair and consistent” rates, and she echoes the government’s insistence that foster parents are not expected to give up outside employment.

Trevor McLellan says he believes his foster daughter would die if she was removed from the only parents that she has ever known and put in institutional care. (Submitted by Erin and Trevor McLellan)

“We have many families across the province that care for medically fragile children and the ministry supports them with different services,” Davies said. “If the needs are so great, then we have other community partners that do care for children with medical needs.”

‘It’s deplorable’

A former high-ranking official in the Social Services Ministry disagrees.

Tim Korol served as the assistant deputy minister of social services in Saskatchewan in 2009. He said that if the provincial government is truly committed to keeping children out of institutions, then that demands exceptional payments to foster parents in some cases. 

“The ministry is taking … huge advantage of this family. It’s deplorable. We shouldn’t stand for that,” Korol said.

Korol says there’s precedent for exceptional payments for foster parents.

“They need to put a roof over their head. And when the care becomes such that it is interfering with them earning a living out of the home, then it’s time to compensate them for the service they provide to our province in the home,” Korol said. “There’s a long history of doing that….The system allows for it, but the bureaucrats are blocking it.”

Human rights complaint

The McLellans have filed a complaint to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission alleging that MSS is discriminating on the basis of disability. They argue that the province refused their application because it didn’t want to pay them more to care for a disabled child.

The McLellans received a letter from Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. In it, he said the government takes “complaints of this nature very seriously.” He assured the McLellans that officials will meet with them to try to resolve the matter.

The McLellans have limited options. They won’t stop fostering Leah, even if it means they have to sell their house.

“They’re banking on our love for her,” Trevor said. “They’re calling our bluff. They’re saying we won’t walk away from her. And it’s true. We won’t. We love her. But they count on that. That’s how they exploit foster parents.”

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