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Build the tunnel: It's time for Newfoundland to dig itself out of food insecurity –



Trucks and containers are seen waiting at the Marine Atlantic lot in North Sydney, N.S., in this file photo. The Gulf ferry service is considered an extension of the Trans-Canada Highway. (Yvonne Leblanc-Smith/CBC)

In the middle of a global crisis, and with Newfoundlanders worried about food and other goods, the island’s supply chain was once again cut off.

The Marine Atlantic ferry crossings have been cancelled a number of times due to weather, and the terminals in Port aux Basques and North Sydney have both been closed after already being on limited capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If there has ever been a time to accept that the island needs a more reliable link to mainland Canada, this is it.

Newfoundland’s dependence on shipping, particularly the Marine Atlantic ferry service, for much of its imports and passenger traffic has been a glaring vulnerability for too long.

Increasingly intense storms in recent years have proved how beholden the island is to the ferries — and how jeopardized the security and safety of every Newfoundlander is when the boats don’t run for days on end.

This has never been more true than right now during this pandemic.

A proposed fixed link would take vehicles across the Strait of Bell Isle. The most feasible option would be through an underground tunnel with vehicles loaded onto a rail system. (Hatch pre-feasibility study)

How can residents of the island continue to be OK with such an inconstant link in its supply chain – especially when a much more dependable option is possible?

It’s time to seriously look at building an undersea tunnel.

16-kilometre lifeline

The idea of a fixed link to mainland Canada is nothing new, and several studies over the years have looked into its viability.

So far, plans have focused on a 16-kilometre drivable tunnel running under the Strait of Belle Isle, connecting Yankee Point on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula to Point Amour in southern Labrador.

The idea is popular with politicians in both regions, and in Quebec, where a highway would be built to connect the tunnel to the rest of Canada. However, there have been concerns from those who worry such a project would only serve Quebec’s interests, as well as undermine traffic on the Marine Atlantic ferry service; the backbone of the economy in Port aux Basques on Newfoundland’s southwest coast.

That’s an understandable worry, but Newfoundlanders can no longer limit themselves to just one unreliable and expensive way to get vehicular traffic on and off the island if it is to grow and diversify.

Norway hopes to be first country to build submerged floating tunnels. Thus illustration shows an open cross-section of what it might look like. (Statens vegvesen/Vianova)

Not only that, but the current situation proves it is also a matter of health and security for everyone who lives on the Rock.

An undersea roadway would provide something that the ferries simply cannot: 24/7/365 access to the island via Labrador, benefiting businesses and passenger traffic — and helping to make life safer and more secure for residents.

In other parts of the world such as Norway, Germany and Japan, subsea tunnels crisscross maritime areas and are an important part of infrastructure as it relates to tourism, trade and nation building.

Newfoundland and Labrador is obviously not Norway or Japan, with its relatively small population and vast distances between communities. However, in a highly developed country like Canada it should be possible to drive coast to coast through all provinces without having to gamble on the unreliable ferry schedules that Marine Atlantic provides.

Who pays?

Another reason for skepticism around the tunnel project is the cost, which has been projected to be between $800 million and $1.6 billion – which some might say the cash-strapped Newfoundland and Labrador government simply can’t afford.

However, it’s been suggested by the current premier and long-time road link advocate Danny Dumaresque that the project could be financed through a public-private partnership, much like the Confederation Bridge in Prince Edward Island. It was an important piece of Canadian nation building that now serves an island much smaller in size and population than Newfoundland.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has even greenlit federal funds to assist in building the subsea link to Newfoundland, which his government also considers a vital project for unifying the country both literally and symbolically.

The province would also save roughly $600 million over the next three decades from not having to run the Straits Ferry. That’s not to mention any new revenue generated from an influx of commercial and tourist traffic through the tunnel.

Marine Atlantic’s ferry service is frequently dependent on weather conditions. (Darren Dodge/Twitter)

Dumaresque points to how the P.E.I. bridge was funded: using money saved from ferry service and by using passenger tolls, as a useful model for funding a tunnel project for Newfoundland.

“The P.E.I. ferry service was costing the federal government $40 million per year plus indexing and inflation,” Dumaresque says.

“They agreed to give the private company this money for 33 years with no indexing, and the company would have to construct, operate and maintain for 33 years. After the contract ends, people get the bridge for one dollar, and tolls will maintain it.”

Dumaresque, who has been pushing for the tunnel for years, said the same could happen with the road link to Newfoundland, but that the term would depend on the cost and how much Ottawa pitches in – which could be as much as 75 per cent.

If you build it, they will come

A road link would also invite more tourists to take the drive through the remarkable landscapes of the Northern Peninsula, perhaps the most underappreciated road trip on the entire island.

Nobody advocating for the fixed link is suggesting termination of ferry service to Nova Scotia. But having another viable way to get vehicles and goods on the island — one that isn’t as bound by weather conditions — is a reason it would take just a few days for the island to run out of home heating fuel and gasoline if the boats stop running.

The Qajaq W. ferry connects western Newfoundland with southern Labrador. (Troy Turner, CBC)

Building an undersea tunnel between Newfoundland and Labrador would ease such anxieties in times like these, when physical and social distancing runs counter to travel by sea, and when many Newfoundlanders worry if the island will run out of food, fuel and other goods.

Maybe it will soon be time to stop arguing about the tunnel, and start digging.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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North American markets gain ground to start the week –



North American equity markets clawed back ground into the close of Monday’s trade, with the S&P/TSX Composite Index up 0.29 per cent, the S&P 500 gaining 0.38 per cent, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 0.36 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite Index up 0.66 per cent.

Equity markets had been mixed in earlier trading, as investors weighed the competing factors of economic reopenings and the rising tensions between the United States and China.

In Toronto, four of the 11 TSX subgroups closed in positive territory, with consumer discretionary, financials and materials leading the way. Consumer staples, information technology and health care were the lead laggards.

A big part of the weakness in health care stocks was the underperformance of Canopy Growth Corp., which finished the day as the worst performer on the index after a string of analyst downgrades. The analyst community has expressed concerns over the company’s lack of a clear path to sustained profitability after it withdrew its forecast last week.

Oil prices fluctuated throughout the day, with U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate up 0.1 per cent to US$35.53 per barrel. Alberta’s Western Canadian Select was up 3.16 per cent to US$29.08 per barrel.

The Canadian dollar gained more than a full cent against its U.S. counterpart to trade at 73.68 cents U.S., though the greenback was weaker against all of its major-market peers.

1:00 p.m. ET: North American equity markets rebound, oil pares losses

North American equity markets rebounded into the midday trade, with the S&P/TSX Composite Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.3 per cent each, the S&P 500 gaining 0.4 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite Index up 0.66 per cent.

In Toronto, only four of the 11 TSX subgroups were in positive territory, led by consumer discretionary, financials and materials stocks. Information technology, consumer staples and health care were the lead laggards.

120 of the index’s 230 members were higher with a pair of cannabis stocks bookending the composite. HEXO Corp. was the lead gainer on the TSX, up 10 per cent after Health Canada approved its facility in Bellville, Ontario. On the flip side, Canopy Growth Corp., was the biggest percentage loser, down nine per cent, after a slew of analyst downgrades after the company shelved its forecast for a path to profitability late last week.

Oil pared some of its earlier losses, with U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate down a little more than one-and-a-half per cent to trade at US$34.90 per barrel. Alberta’s Western Canadian Select was essentially unchanged at US$28.16 per barrel.

10 a.m. ET – North American stocks slip, oil falls as U.S.-China tensions escalate

North American equity markets kicked off the week in modestly negative territory, with the S&P/TSX Composite Index down a tenth of a per cent, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both falling 0.4 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite Index down 0.2 per cent.

Markets were under that modest pressure amid signs of a re-escalation of tensions between the United States and China, with Bloomberg News reporting Beijing has ordered a halt to imports of some American farm goods. Meanwhile, the U.S. is also facing a wave of civil unrest as demonstrators take to the streets to protest the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, which has prompted some American cities to implement curfews.

Oil prices fell in the wake of those tensions, outweighing the impact of speculation the OPEC+ group of producers could be poised to implement a short extension of its output cuts in order to put some upward pressure on crude prices. U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate fell 2.5 per cent to US$34.60 per barrel, while Alberta’s Western Canadian Select dropped three per cent to US$27.34.

In Toronto, that weakness in crude weighed on the energy sector in early trading.

Another point of weakness was Canopy Growth Corp. The company’s shares fell about seven per cent after the firm was downgraded by four analysts following the cannabis producer’s disappointing quarterly results late last week.

The Canadian dollar rose a third of a cent against its American counterpart to 72.93 cents U.S., though the U.S. dollar was broadly weaker against its major global peers.

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B.C. protects small businesses from evictions – CityNews Vancouver



VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) —  The B.C. government is banning commercial landlords who refuse to apply for federal assistance from evicting small businesses that can’t pay rent due to the pandemic.

The order is meant to support the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program and restricts the termination of lease agreements and the repossession of goods and property, says a government release.

“The federal launch of the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program has been a welcome step in B.C., but we heard from small businesses that they need us to help fill a gap that has left some of them unable to get the support they need,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance.

“We’re listening to small businesses and have their backs. Preventing landlords who are eligible for CECRA from evicting tenants can encourage landlords to apply for the program and give some temporary relief to businesses who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.”

The emergency order restricting evictions is effective immediately and will continue for as long as the federal program is in place, which is currently until the end of June.

B.C. could extend the order if the federal program is, as well, James added.

The federal program is offering forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners to reduce the rent for small business experiencing severe financial hardship due to COVID-19.

Property owners must offer a minimum of a 75 per cent reduction for the months of April, May, and June. The federal and B.C. governments will cover 50 per cent of the rent payments, while the tenants are responsible for 25 per cent of the rent, and landlords cover the remaining 25 per cent.

The federal program loans to landlords will be forgiven if they comply with program terms and conditions, including an agreement to not recover forgiven rent amounts when the program is over.

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Should small businesses be protected from eviction? – Poll –



Small businesses in B.C. that have suffered significant revenue losses during the COVID-19 pandemic will be protected from eviction effective June 1.

The provincial government announced Monday new measures to protect small businesses that are eligible for federal commercial rent assistance, but are unable to access that assistance because their landlords won’t apply to the program.

“There are certainly some tenants who their landlords have been very clear that they don’t want to bother, they don’t want to take the time to apply for the federal program, and that then hurts the tenant, because the tenant doesn’t have the opportunity to be able to have that relief to help them,” said James.

“I expect that it will, I hope, make a difference in encouraging those landlords to apply now that they won’t be able to evict those tenants.”

Under an emergency act order, commercial landlords will be restricted from evicting tenants who have lost at least 70% of their revenue, and are thus eligible for Ottawa’s Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, which can only be applied to by landlords.

Read more.

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