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'Canada is broken,' say majority of Canadians in poll taken in wake of rail blockades – National Post

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In a time of widespread disagreement and ever-increasing polarization, there remains a bitter solidarity among Canadians in the belief that the government doesn’t know what it’s doing.

In the wake of regional discontent from the western provinces and blockades jamming up the country’s rail network, a towering majority of Canadians agree with the statement, “Right now, Canada is broken.”

Sixty-nine per cent of Canadians agree with the statement, rising to 83% in Alberta, found a DART & Maru/Blue poll conducted for the National Post.

(Click or tap on graphics to enlarge.)

“This is one of the few polls that I just looked at — and I’ve been doing this for 30 years, so I did polling around the Oka Crisis — I was astonished when I saw some of these numbers, but I’m not surprised,” said long-time pollster John Wright, a partner with DART.

The poll spells bad news for Justin Trudeau with a majority of people believing that the country is not headed in the right direction and that the prime minister is not governing well. The Liberals also get most of the blame for the rail blockades.

And on Trudeau’s signature promise to help Indigenous people, two-thirds of Canadians don’t believe he has delivered on that pledge.

“A lot of the blame has been centred on the prime minister and the Liberal government,” said Daniel Béland, the director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

Béland said the trouble started for Trudeau early on, because the blockades began while he was out of the country, campaigning for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

“There was some form of void. The government left the impression — at least many people came to the conclusion — that there was no one really in charge of the situation,” said Béland.

On the topic of the rail blockades, only 27 per cent of Canadians think Trudeau has handled the situation well, while the premiers get a 45 per cent approval rating on the issue.

And while Canadians are comprehensively scathing about Trudeau’s government they are conflicted about the demonstrators and the concerns of Indigenous people in Canada.

The poll suggests this may be partly because Canadians think governments constantly lie to Indigenous people. Fifty-seven per cent of Canadians agree that “governments lie to Indigenous people about making things better for them.”

A majority of Canadians, 62%, also believe Trudeau has not delivered on his promises to Indigenous people.

Roughly half the country disagree with the methods used to protest, but they would “stand with Indigenous people in solidarity” to help solve these issues. Half of Canadians also think “we’ve done enough for Indigenous people in Canada.”

Still, two-thirds of Canadians say they would support a one-time payment issued immediately to Indigenous people for things like “food, clean water and housing,” to cover the “necessities of life,” even if it cost $1 billion.

With the blockades coinciding with economic unrest and alienation in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the poll respondents and people interviewed by the Post worry that the bleak mood in the country isn’t just a temporary problem.

“Canada is not broken. Canada’s institutions are broken,” said Donald Savoie, the Canada Research Chair in Public Administration and Governance at the University of Moncton, who has written extensively about democracy in Canada.

Savoie said from the beginning of confederation, the governance structures were designed to balance Quebec and Ontario, without much regard for western Canada.

“In 1867, the concern was to protect Canada against democracy, not to protect regional interests,” said Savoie. “Until we have an institution that can speak on behalf of the regions, we are going to have a problem.”

That worry was recently echoed in a manifesto released by a handful of Alberta MPs last week. Among other concerns, the “Buffalo Declaration” noted that Alberta has a little more than half the senators of either New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, despite a much larger population.

Savoie said that most countries have some kind of regional counterweight, like the United States Senate which allocates two Senators for every state, but Canada has never had any institution that effectively performs that role.

Asked to rank how various people have handled the Wet’suwet’en protests, 67 per cent of people think the rail companies have handled it well. The provincial police get a 57 per cent approval rating and the RCMP get 55 per cent approval.

Politicians, though, get much worse reviews. Provincial premiers get a 45 per cent approval rating, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer gets 36 per cent approval, and only 27 per cent of Canadians think Trudeau has handled the situation well.

More than 80 per cent of Canadians believe their politicians care more about their own partisan interests than working on behalf of all Canadians. The highest level of agreement on this came from Alberta, at 90 per cent, and Atlantic Canada, at 86 per cent.

Wright said the issue of increasing partisanship and polarization is one that worries him.

“People are truly frustrated with the inability of their leadership to come together and recognize that human beings are being affected by their decisions and that they’re not simply voters,” said Wright.

The DART & Maru/Blue poll was conducted among 1,511 randomly selected Canadian adult members of Maru/Blue’s online panel on Feb. 24 and is considered accurate within plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

• Email: sxthomson@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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Exclusive-Google aims to improve spotty enforcement of children’s ads policy

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Alphabet Inc’s Google said this week it would immediately improve enforcement of an age-sensitive ad policy after Reuters found ads for sex toys, liquor and high-risk investments in its search engine that should have been blocked under its efforts to comply with UK regulations.

Britain started enforcing regulations last September aimed at protecting children from being tracked online. Google in response began modifying settings across its services in Europe and elsewhere for users younger than 18 years. Among the measures it had touted in August was “expanding safeguards to prevent age-sensitive ad categories from being shown to teens.”

Specifically, the search giant began using automated tools to stop ads related to categories such as alcohol, gambling and prescription drugs from being shown to people who are not logged in to a Google account or confirmed to be at least 18.

Tech companies face a growing challenge with policing their sprawling services, and, according to posts on online advertising forums and two advertisers, Google’s enforcement has been spotty.

The advertisers, who sought anonymity out of fear of retribution from the tech company, said they have been frustrated about significant lost sales due to Google’s search engine correctly blocking their ads from signed-out users while erroneously allowing their competitors’ ads.

Ads were shown in the UK to signed-out users last week for leveraged trading, cholesterol medication, adult toy retailers and a major grocer promoting a vodka product, Reuters found.

“We have policies in place that limit where we show certain age-sensitive ad categories,” Google said. “The ads in question were mislabeled and in this instance should have been restricted from serving. We are taking immediate steps to address this issue.”

It declined to elaborate on the adjustments.

Google advertising rivals such as Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook and Microsoft Corp either ban many categories of age-sensitive ads altogether or have put the onus on advertisers to target their ads in ways that limit exposure to minors. Microsoft declined to comment, and Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.

The UK Children’s Code requires online services to meet 15 design and privacy standards to protect children, such as limiting collection of their location and other personal information. Google said its filtering of age-sensitive ads is core to its compliance with the code.

Advocacy group 5Rights Foundation, which campaigned for the regulation and reviewed the findings by Reuters, said tech companies should regularly publish internal research on how well they are living up to the code and their own policies.

“We must be wary of ‘safety washing,'” 5Rights said. “Tech companies need to back up their claims with action, and demonstrate how they are complying with regulations, particularly in the early stages of implementation.”

Google did not respond to the comments. The company declined to share detailed information with Reuters about how often it had failed to block age-sensitive ads.

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office said in November it had reached out to Google, Apple Inc and other companies in social media, streaming and gaming to review their conformance to the code. The review is ongoing, the privacy regulator told Reuters.

 

(Reporting by Paresh Dave in Oakland, Calif.; Editing by Kenneth Li, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Matthew Lewis)

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Canada, echoing U.S., says it fears armed conflict could erupt in Ukraine

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Canada fears armed conflict could break out in Ukraine and is working with allies to make clear to Russia that any more aggression towards Kiev is unacceptable, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/blinken-says-russian-attack-ukraine-could-come-very-short-notice-2022-01-19 said earlier that Russia could launch a new attack on Ukraine at “very short notice”. Moscow, which has stationed military equipment and tens of thousands of troops near the border, denies it is planning an invasion and blames the West for rising tensions.

“We do fear an armed conflict in Ukraine. We’re very worried about the position of the Russian government … and the fact that they’re sending soldiers to the Ukrainian border,” Trudeau told a news conference.

Canada, with a sizeable and politically influential population of Ukrainian descent, has taken a strong line with Russia since its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

“We’re working with our international partners and colleagues to make it very, very clear that Russian aggression and further incursion into Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable,” Trudeau said.

“We are standing there with diplomatic responses, with sanctions, with a full press on the international stage.”

Canadian troops are in Latvia as part of a NATO mission and Trudeau said they would “continue the important work that NATO is doing to protect its eastern front”.

Canada has had a 200-strong training mission in western Ukraine since 2015.

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/canada-condemns-russian-troop-movements-near-ukraine-mulls-weapons-supplies-kyiv-2022-01-18 on Tuesday said Ottawa would make a decision at the appropriate time on supplying military hardware to Ukraine.

Trudeau side-stepped a question about sending defensive weapons, saying any decision would “be based on what is best for the people of Ukraine”.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren;Editing by Will Dunham and Philippa Fletcher)

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Canada's inflation rate rises to new 30-year high of 4.8% – CBC News

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The Consumer Price Index increased at an annual pace of 4.8 per cent in December, as sharply higher prices for food led to the cost of living going up at its fastest rate since 1991.

Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that grocery prices increased by 5.7 per cent, the biggest annual gain since 2011.

The price of fresh produce is being walloped by two things, the data agency said: “Unfavourable weather conditions in growing regions, as well as supply chain disruptions.”

The price of apples has increased by 6.7 per cent in the past year, and oranges by almost as much — 6.6 per cent. 

The U.S. is the major supplier of oranges to Canada, and because of bad weather and a plant disease called citrus greening, the major growing region of Florida is on track to produce the smallest number of oranges since 1945. 

That’s causing the price of frozen concentrated orange juice to skyrocket on commodities markets.

“If you’re an orange juice drinker, it means your prices are going to be going up at the store,” analyst Phil Flynn, with Chicago-based commodity trading firm Price Group, told CBC News. “The cost of orange juice has almost doubled here in the last few months, and that’s going to be passed down to the consumers.”

Other types of food are going up quickly, too. The price of frozen beef has gone up by almost 12 per cent in the past year, while ham and bacon are up by about 15 per cent.

Kendra Sozinho, a manager at the Fiesta Farms grocery store in Toronto, says costs from suppliers are going up faster than she’s ever seen “We’re seeing almost every single supplier increasing their pricing whech then increases our pricing,” she told CBC News in an interview. “I’ve been here for 20 years and I’ve never seen a jump like this.”

WATCH | Grocery store manager explains why prices are going up:

Grocery costs going up

53 minutes ago

Duration 0:38

Kendra Sozinho at Fiesta Farms in Toronto says consumers are seeing higher prices because grocers are dealing with sharply higher prices themselves. 0:38

Economist Tu Nguyen with consultancy RSM says food price increases could be set to get even worse in the coming weeks and months because of new rules forbidding unvaccinated truckers from entering the country.

“The current bout of inflation is driven by supply chain disruptions, pent-up demand and inflation expectations,” she said. “While pent-up demand is expected to ease as pandemic spending winds down, supply chain and inflation expectations remain paramount challenges.”

Prices for oranges and orange juice are set to rise because of bad weather and a citrus disease in Florida, which supplies most of Canada’s oranges. (Bruna Prado/Getty Images)

Expect a rate hike soon  

Food is far from the only thing becoming more expensive.

Shelter costs have risen by 5.4 per cent in the past year, faster than the overall inflation rate. And unlike the global forces at play pushing up food prices, the factors driving up shelter costs are all Canadian-made, TD Bank economist James Marple said.

“The one exception to the global nature of the current inflationary environment, is housing inflation, which is both domestically driven and, outside of increased incidents of extreme weather driving up insurance prices, directly related to the Bank of Canada’s policy stance,” he said.

Politicians weigh in

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre placed the blame for high inflation squarely at the foot of the federal government, noting that as a country with abundant energy and food resources, Canada should have a built-in advantage when it comes to keeping a lid on prices.

“The biggest increases for consumer products have been those that we source right here at home, not those that depend on foreign supply chains,” he told reporters in Ottawa.

“Home price inflation is a home-grown problem,” he went on, arguing that record government spending under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to blame for inflation. “The more he spends, the more things cost,” Poilievre said.

The Prime Minister, for his part, rejected that claim and said his government has a plan in place to face the inflationary challenges that many countries are facing.

WATCH | Trudeau talks about record high inflation:

Trudeau says inflation is a ‘global challenge’

2 hours ago

Duration 1:34

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says inflation is a challenge facing many countries and his government has a fiscal plan in place to get past it. 1:34

Lending rates were slashed to record lows in the early days of the pandemic to stimulate the economy. But two years of rock bottom mortgage rates have proven to be jet fuel for Canada’s housing market, causing many policy makers to suggest the time has come for the Bank of Canada to hike its rate to cool things down.

After Wednesday’s inflation report, investors think there’s about a 75 per cent chance of a rate hike as soon as next week, when the bank is set to meet. 

“Inflation is likely to come down over the next year, but getting it there will require tighter financial conditions and rate hikes by the Bank of Canada,” Marple said. 

Semiconductor shortage persists

And an ongoing lack of semiconductor microchips continues to drive up the price of just about anything with a microchip in it.

That includes durable goods like washing machines and other household appliances, the price of which have gone up by 5.7 per cent in the past 12 months. New car prices are up by even more — 7.2 per cent. 

If there was one area of relief for consumers, it was gas prices, where the price to fill up at the pump fell by 4.1 per cent during the month. That’s the biggest monthly drop since April 2020. But compared to a year ago, gas prices are still 33 per cent higher than they were in December 2020.

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