Eligible Albertans can start making appointments for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, and upgrades have been made that officials believe will prevent a repeat of last month’s system crash.
Starting Wednesday, Albertans 50 to 64 years old, as well as First Nations, Metis and Inuit people 35 to 49 years old, who do not have a severe chronic illness can call 811 or make appointments through the online portal.
There are roughly 400,000 Albertans who fall in those age groups, the province said Monday.
AHS said it upgraded its online portal on March 3 to increase capacity and make it more convenient for Albertans to make an appointment. The health authority is also adding staff to support 811.
“The system has been improved by making several upgrades, including adding more servers to support the website and increasing processing power.
“More network bandwidth has also been added, meaning the network can manage a higher volume of data than before,” reads a statement from AHS to Global News.
Alberta to begin offering AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to those eligible
“It’s encouraging that there has been such a high demand. At the same time, these challenges should have been anticipated,” Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease professor at the University of Alberta, said about last month’s booking issues.
“We’ve had over a year now to plan for the ultimate rollout of vaccinations.
“I hope that increasing capacity will be able, from the IT perspective, and having people managing phones etc., is going to be able to manage that increase.”
Alberta Health Minister says AHS is ‘fixing the the problems’ with COVID-19 vaccine booking system
Bookings will take place by year of birth, one day at a time, while supply lasts. Albertans born in 1957, or those First Nations, Metis or Inuit born in 1972, can start booking appointments Wednesday. Those born in later years can book in the subsequent days.
Dr. Noel Gibney, co-chair of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association’s (EZMSA) pandemic response committee, is hopeful this change, and other upgrades, will make a difference.
“I think it appears AHS has certainly learned a lot since the first rollout,” he said.
“I certainly think it will be an improvement. Only time will tell whether or not people will obey and not book on the days they are not supposed to book.”
The portal is able to book approximately 100,000 appointments over a 24-hour period, according to AHS.
Dr. Don Wilson, a community physician and president of the community physicians’ division of the EZMSA, said there are indications Wednesday’s bookings will run smoother than the last time around but he does not expect completely smooth sailing.
“I still think it’s going to be slightly overwhelmed, or at least long waits to get people into queue, mainly because you’re dealing with a much larger population than dealing with the over 75,” he said.
More pharmacies have been tasked with vaccinating Albertans against COVID-19, but Wilson said vaccine rollout could speed up if family doctors were involved.
“We’re missing opportunity here to get this vaccine out. Physicians are always willing to help out. Really, it’s part of the tool chest,” he said.
COVID-19 vaccines set to be delivered at some Alberta pharmacies
As of last Friday, Alberta Health told Global News that work is underway to potentially include community physicians in later phases of the rollout.
“We will update Albertans in the weeks ahead as vaccine supply increases, and Alberta’s immunization program expands,” said spokesperson Christa Jubinville.
Definition of severe chronic illness unclear
While upgrades to the booking system have been made, it is still unclear how the province is defining “severe chronic illness” for those it does not believe should get the AstraZeneca vaccine.
On Monday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw acknowledged that, without a definition, it is confusing and said work on a list of what qualifies as a severe chronic illness is being made.
“With AstraZeneca coming sooner than anticipated, unfortunately, I recognize the timing isn’t ideal for those trying to decide if they should get AstraZeneca or not. We will be making that list available publicly very soon,” she said.
At this point, it is not clear whether a list will be available before bookings for the AstraZeneca vaccine start Wednesday.
Should AstraZeneca be given to seniors? Doctor answers top COVID-19 questions
Schwartz, who is of the opinion the AstraZeneca vaccine should not be withheld from any age group, said the situation about severe chronic illnesses isn’t binary, saying everyone has some degree of wellness or illness on the spectrum.
He stresses that there have been no signals the vaccine is unsafe or lacks efficacy in particular age groups or based on comorbidities, saying there was not enough data from the clinical trials to make definitive conclusions.
However, he said the lack of a clear definition for Albertans is confusing.
“I think that people should expect that unless they already know they have a serious illness that they should expect by default that they are eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“Those individuals that do have severe illnesses will know that is the case,” Schwartz said.
Vaccination will lead to protection
The province has said that Albertans who fall into Wednesday’s eligibility could also wait until later in the year to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
Schwartz is encouraging people to get the vaccine that is offered to them as quickly as possible.
“There is no protection while we’re waiting for another vaccine to be coming down the line. The faster you get vaccinated, the faster you’re going to be protected,” he said.
Gibney, meanwhile, said real-life trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Scotland have shown the vaccine functions well and prevents severe illness.
“From my perspective, I would say to anyone within that age group – don’t hesitate. Get your vaccination as quickly as you can and the best vaccine is the one you can get most rapidly,” he said.
Coronavirus: Italy approves AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65 as death toll nears 100,000
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Enterprise charges customer more than $3,300 for damage incurred after truck returned – CBC.ca
Samuel Wardlaw expected to pay $200 for his truck rental. Instead, Enterprise Rent-A-Car added more than $3,300 to his bill — for damage that occurred after he dropped it off.
He’d only used the truck for five hours, to move some belongings to his new apartment.
But a week later, an unexpected email from the rental giant said he was responsible for damage that occurred on the Enterprise lot after hours.
- Have a question or something to say? CBC News is live in the comments now.
The email didn’t explain what had happened or why he was responsible — but it struck fear in Wardlaw, 29, a delivery driver for a lumber company.
“I was anxious about what the price was going to be,” he said. “So to see over $3,300 in damage? I was totally shocked.”
Enterprise said later that, after Wardlaw parked the truck and put the keys in a secure drop box, as instructed by an employee, someone stole its catalytic converter, a part of the exhaust system that contains valuable metals.
Enterprise pointed to a clause on page 7 of its rental contract that says drivers who drop off a vehicle after hours are responsible for any damage or theft until it’s checked in by an employee.
“It’s their truck, their lot, their catalytic converter. Everything about it is within Enterprise’s control,” said Wardlaw. “For them to say it’s my liability is pretty ridiculous.”
After Go Public got involved, Enterprise said in an email it had “decided not to pursue the claim.”
The company did not explain why and said no one was available for an interview.
Go Public has checked the terms and conditions for the three major companies that account for an estimated 95 per cent of all car rentals in Canada: Enterprise (which owns National and Alamo), Avis (which owns Budget) and Hertz (which owns Dollar and Thrifty).
All the contracts contain similar clauses, claiming drivers are responsible for any damage or theft from the time they drop off a vehicle until it is checked back in.
A consumer advocate and lawyer says Enterprise and other car rental giants give the impression there’s no downside to dropping off a vehicle after hours.
“We’ve all been there — the car company says, ‘No problem, stick the keys through the slot in the door,'” said Jennifer Marston, who works with the free legal clinic Pro Bono Ontario.
“But how many times do they say to you, ‘If anything happens when the car is parked on the lot, you’re responsible’? That’s never happened to me.”
‘Just put the keys through the drop off slot’
Wardlaw says when he arrived to pick up the truck, there was little discussion about the terms and conditions in the 30-page (English and French) contract.
“They told me that since they were going to be closed at 12 o’clock that day and I would be returning at around 1 p.m., to just put the keys through the drop off slot when I returned the vehicle,” he said.
Marston says big car rental outfits can’t hide behind lengthy contracts they know most people won’t read and may not understand when they contain ambiguous or unusual terms.
“They wrote it. They had the opportunity to put more effort into making it clear and they didn’t,” she said.
She says legal precedent exists due to an Ontario case which found Tilden Rent-A-Car was required to bring unexpected terms to the attention of the consumer if it wants them to be enforceable.
“When there’s an onerous term in the contract, a heavy term that puts a big burden on someone, if it’s buried in the fine print, then the company in a consumer transaction like this has the responsibility to bring that to the consumer’s attention,” said Marston.
The companies also have to meet a standard of proof when holding customers responsible for damage, said Marston.
When Enterprise told Wardlaw a thief had stolen that catalytic converter, it sent photographs of the damage, but they weren’t time-stamped.
“We don’t know when those photos were taken,” said Marston.
“Maybe they were taken a week later. The burden is on the company to prove that.”
She says people caught in a dispute need to know one thing — the rental company isn’t the judge.
“They will send you a letter saying you’ve caused this damage, you owe this amount of money. But they’re actually not the ones who get to decide that,” said Marston.
“That’s just their position as one of the parties to a legal claim. And you have the opportunity to respond,” she said, with the understanding that the matter might end with a collection agency or small claims court.
Go Public has learned that the same Enterprise location in north Toronto had half a dozen catalytic converters worth $24,000 stolen from its trucks shortly after Wardlaw’s incident.
- Read stats about the growing problem of catalytic converter thefts
The company declined to say what it is doing to prevent further thefts and damage.
Marston says the companies should ensure their vehicles are being stored under safe conditions.
“The rental company could secure the perimeter. They could install security cameras. They can install anti-theft devices on vehicles,” she said.
“These options aren’t available to the consumers, so why should the consumer bear the loss?”
‘This is absolute BS’
Stuti Narula of Toronto says an Enterprise employee also told her to drop off the keys when she returned a car after hours, to a location in the city’s north end last December.
The next day, an Enterprise employee called to say she was responsible for a scratch on its passenger door — and owed $1,000.
Narula says the car was in perfect condition when she returned it, but — as with Wardlaw — an employee said she was liable for any damages incurred before it was checked back in and that the matter would be sent to a collection agency if she didn’t pay up.
“This is absolute BS,” said Narula. “If I have to be held liable for any damages to the car, I might as well keep it in my careful custody until the office opens the next day.”
She says the drop-off location had closed-circuit cameras, but she was told she couldn’t see footage.
WATCH | Enterprise charges customer more than $3K for damages incurred after truck returned:
Narula also says she was told the damage was discovered after an employee drove the car to a car wash — and she questioned whether that’s when the damage occurred.
“I’m entitled to know what investigation Enterprise carried out at its end before slamming the damage cost on me,” Narula wrote in an email to the car rental giant.
After fighting Enterprise for several months, Narula reluctantly asked her car insurance company to submit a payment, but she’s sworn off ever renting from Enterprise again.
Enterprise wrote in an email to Go Public that allowing customers to return vehicles after hours is a “convenience” and that “it is important to understand that the rental transaction is not complete until the vehicle has been inspected.”
Wardlaw says he’s relieved he’s no longer expected to pay his damage bill, but says Enterprise has lost him as a customer, too.
“Basically, from the moment I called them, they were arguing with me. I didn’t feel that there was any interest in resolution — other than to have me pay the full amount.”
Protect yourself ‘after hours’
- Ideally, return your vehicle during operating hours and have an agent check it over and sign off on rental.
- If you must drop off the vehicle after hours, note whether there are security cameras on the lot and try to park within view.
- Set your smartphone to add a date and time stamp to photos and take pictures of the sides, front, back and roof of vehicle and — if possible — the underside, wheel wells, interior and trunk.
- Take a photo of the mileage on the odometer.
- Hold onto photos for at least six months.
Submit your story ideas
Go Public is an investigative news segment on CBC-TV, radio and the web.
We tell your stories, shed light on wrongdoing and hold the powers that be accountable.
If you have a story in the public interest, or if you’re an insider with information, contact GoPublic@cbc.ca with your name, contact information and a brief summary. All emails are confidential until you decide to Go Public.
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Read more stories by Go Public.
Canada boosts U.S. natgas exports, drills more as global prices surge
Demand has jumped for relatively cheap Canadian natural gas, driving exports to the United States to three-year highs and prompting producers in Canada to boost capital spending and drilling activity.
Global natural gas prices have hit multi-year highs as world economies recover from last year’s slowdown during the pandemic. Now, natural gas stockpiles in Europe are dangerously low and demand in Asia has been insatiable, so utilities around the world are competing for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.
Canada‘s gas is remote, and prices at the AECO hub in Alberta are among the cheapest in North America, with production far from major U.S. demand centers and LNG export terminals in the U.S. Gulf Coast, some 2,500 miles (4,023 km) away. Canada has no LNG export terminals.
Still, at around C$5 ($4.12) per million British thermal units (mmBtu), AECO prices are well above their 2021 year-to-date average of C$3.38 ($2.73), and some of Canada‘s largest gas producers including Tourmaline Oil Corp are seeking to capitalize.
“A number of producers are accelerating capital into Q4 (fourth quarter) to add production volumes into the higher-priced winter market,” said Matt Murphy, an analyst at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co (TPH) in Calgary.
Gas receipts into TC Energy’s NGTL pipeline system hit an all-time high of 12.75 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) in mid-October, according to TPH records dating from 2013. The NGTL system is the main artery shipping western Canadian gas to market, and can be used as a proxy for output from the region.
TPH is forecasting further gas receipt growth to 12.9 bcfd in December, with new highs in 2022.
Data provider Refinitiv said Canadian exports to the United States averaged 8.3 bcfd year-to-date, the highest over that time period since 2018. In 2020, Canadian exports hit their lowest level since 1993 because of the pandemic, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.
The increase in drilling activity in Canada contrasts with a more cautious approach among U.S. gas producers, who are still being careful with their capital after the pandemic decimated demand in 2020 and left the industry on its knees.
The Canadian gas rig count is currently 70, up 75% from this time last year, while U.S. gas rigs are up about 32% to 98 over the same period, according to energy services firm Baker Hughes Co.
Tourmaline, Canada‘s largest gas producer, is accelerating drilling in the second half and bringing capital spending originally earmarked for 2022 into this year, according to a company presentation in September.
“The company will monitor natural gas supply/demand balances and schedule new production startups appropriately through the course of winter and the balance of 2022,” Tourmaline said.
The company expects to produce on average 500,000-510,000 barrels of oil equivalent next year, up from 440,000-445,000 in 2021.
Other major Canadian gas producers increasing activity include Canadian Natural Resources Ltd and ARC Resources, industry analysts said. ARC declined to comment and CNRL did not respond to a request for comment.
However, a shortage of skilled crews to operate drilling rigs in Canada could limit how much gas output climbs, and some producers remain cautious that increased supply may rein in prices.
“How do we do more even if we wanted to do more? We’re at a limit on the people that we have,” said Darren Gee, Chief Executive of Peyto Exploration and Development Corp.
($1 = 1.2363 Canadian dollars)
(Additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by David Gregorio)
Edward Rogers to take battle for Rogers Communications Inc. to B.C. Supreme Court – CTV News
The ousted chairman of Rogers Communication Inc. says he’ll go to the British Columbia Supreme Court in a bid to wrest back control of the company.
Edward Rogers made the assertion after holding a meeting that included five hand-picked directors, meant to replace members of the board that on Thursday removed him as its chair.
A statement from his camp says Edward Rogers was elected chair of the board at Sunday’s meeting.
An earlier statement from Rogers’ siblings and the board they endorse pre-emptively rejected any outcome of Sunday night’s meeting, saying that only the board as it existed Thursday has any authority.
The statement says it comes from a group representing the majority of the board.
But Edward Rogers remains chair of the Rogers Control Trust, the controlling shareholder, which, along with Rogers family members, owns 97 per cent of Class A voting shares.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2021.
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