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Canada isn’t ruling out taking a stake in Canadian airlines

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OTTAWA —
The Canadian government isn’t ruling out the possibility of taking a stake in Canadian airlines, like WestJet and Air Canada, as ministers consider how to help the sector in its struggles amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Leblanc confirmed the possibility during an interview with CTV Question Period Host Evan Solomon, airing Sunday.

During the interview, Solomon pointed out that in a bid to save their own airlines, Germany took at 20-per-cent stake in Lufthansa. When he asked Leblanc if Canada is considering taking such a step here, Leblanc said the government “is very much discussing that.”

“I know, my colleagues, [Transport Minister] Marc Garneau, and [Finance Minister] Chrystia Freeland, are looking at a whole series of options of what government support might look like for the sector. So we haven’t made any decisions in that level of detail yet, but they’re very much discussing that,” Leblanc said of the action Germany took.

Air Canada was partially owned by the government until 1989. WestJet was a publicly-traded company, but went private in a $5 billion deal last year.

Leblanc’s comments come as WestJet announced on Wednesday its decision to suspend flights to four cities in Atlantic Canada and to “dramatically” pare down service to Halifax and St. John’s, N.L.

“The lack of travel demand combined with domestic quarantines means that sadly we can no longer maintain our full Canadian network of service,” CEO Ed Sims said, speaking in a video post on Wednesday.

The company said the cuts remove 80 per cent of WestJet’s seat capacity from the Atlantic region, and slash more than 100 weekly flights. The airline has also announced 100 additional layoffs, and the suspension of service between Toronto and Quebec City.

Air Canada had also said in June that it would suspend service to 30 regional routes, which mainly impacted travellers in the Maritimes, Quebec and Saskatchewan.

Leblanc told Solomon WestJet’s latest announcement is “obviously difficult” for the Atlantic provinces, as well as for Quebec.

“There’s no doubt that Canadians expect that, when the economic recovery is concluded, that we’re left with a competitive air transportation system across the country,” Leblanc said.

Meanwhile, as the government considers how it can help airlines, Leblanc pointed out that the airlines still have to answer for the way they decided to compensate passengers as COVID-19 forced a mass cancellation of huge swaths of flights.

Many Canadians were compensated in the form of a voucher as opposed to getting their money back.

“Canadians also expect us not to simply write blank checks or bail out large corporations without addressing, as you said, the issue of vouchers,” Leblanc told Solomon.

“I hear from a number of people how upset they were that thousands of dollars on a credit card turned into a voucher they may or may not be able to use that up to an unknown time.”

Leblanc said these are all “necessary parts” of the conversations the government is having with airlines — though he assured that the government is “committed to working with” the sector to ensure the economic recovery keeps Canada’s air transportation system afloat.

“Those discussions will necessarily happen. And I hope quite quickly,” Leblanc said.

To date, Canada has fallen out of lockstep from its G7 counterparts with respect to financial aid for the airline sector, choosing instead to offer broad measures including the federal wage subsidy — measures that are available to other sectors as well.

With files from The Canadian Press

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PM: Feds, provinces agree vaccine prioritization should be consistent Canada-wide – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
As the precise order of who will follow seniors, health care workers and high-risk populations in line to get COVID-19 vaccines is still being sorted out, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal and provincial governments agree that there should be a cross-Canada “consensus” on the matter.

With Health Canada now beginning its assessment of a fourth potential vaccine candidate — Johnson & Johnson’s — the prime minister said talks are ongoing with the provinces and territories about the “challenging ethical and societal” aspect of the country’s vaccine rollout.

Logistics aside, governments and health care experts are having to weigh and decide who will be prioritized and what the eventual order of precedence will be for Canadians to line up and be vaccinated.

According to the preliminary guidance issued by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, prioritization will be based on three factors: the state of the pandemic when the vaccine is available; the supply available and number of doses required; and the risk-benefit analysis of key populations such as those who are at higher risk for adverse outcomes if they contract the novel coronavirus.

Based on that advisory group’s preliminary guidance, the recommendation is that essential workers and others who face increased risks related to COVID-19 should be vaccinated against the disease before everyone else. Examples of those at higher risk include providers of essential services, or those whose living or working conditions put them at higher risk.

The subsequent order of who gets vaccinated next remains a largely open question, however, in the race to see 70 per cent of Canadians vaccinated by September.

“We talked about it with the provinces last week on our 22nd first minister’s call, and there was a number of perspectives, but there seemed to be a consensus that we should all agree across the country on what that list looks like and make sure that it is applied fairly right across the country,” Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday.

“There are more conversations to come and we will keep Canadians informed as we determine what that right order of priority is. Other elements of it is, certain vaccines might be more effective with certain populations versus others, and that’s why the experts are going to be so important in making determinations around, what is the best path to move forward for our country,” said the prime minister.

Though, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said later that provinces will be able to refine the prioritizations based on their own regional demographics.

“At the end of the day it is the provinces who deliver health care and it is the provinces who will decide on the priority populations and of course we’re working closely to make sure that we have coordination across the country, and that we agree on the principles, which in fact we have, we have a shared set of principles,” Hajdu said.

“There are also some federal populations that we will obviously have to take care of ourselves as the federal government,” Hajdu said. Examples of these groups would presumably be Indigenous communities and federal inmates.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said on Tuesday that he and other premiers still have outstanding questions that need to be answered.

“Clearly we need our most vulnerable folks, our seniors… our front-line care workers to get the vaccine earlier, we can all agree on that. But the devil’s in the details, when you get beyond that. Should it be done on the basis of age? Or how do you determine vulnerability? Should it be done on the basis of ethnicity? Should it be done on the basis of race in some way? These questions have to be addressed,” Pallister said.

“We’re not saying the federal government has to do it all but we’re saying that we need to have the criteria established and the priority should be common, not different in one side of Saskatchewan’s border with Alberta than it is on the other, or not different than it is in Ottawa from Gatineau, but rather that we have a co-ordinated strategy.”

In an interview on CTV’s Power Play, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said in his province he doesn’t anticipate there will be a huge line up of people who want to get vaccinated early on, but communicating as clearly as possible in advance of who will be eligible first will help avoid a “panic situation.”

So far, just over $284 million has been spent on distributing vaccines to Canadians, with overall more than $1 billion allocated to Canada’s vaccine procurement effort, as part of a more than $14-billion commitment over the next several years on research into and development of vaccines and therapeutics.

AGE MAY BE KEY FACTOR: TAM

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday that work is underway right now on getting more “granular” in planning who among the highest risk groups will be first.

“That detail work is, you know, being taken very seriously by the provinces and territories as they begin to plan their immunization clinics.”

Then, once the priority groups are immunized, it’s possible the next easiest way to break down the order would be by age, said Tam.

“The age group, based on our analysis is actually the easiest and the most scientifically-sound way, I think, of increasing the population coverage,” she said.

“We know that underlying medical conditions put people at high risk but when we actually analyze all the different underlying medical conditions, and their age, it still comes out that the age is in fact the most important where you look at severe illness and mortality.”

There will also be groups who won’t be able to get a vaccine early on, due to the lack of research into the potential impacts on them, such as children and people who are pregnant.

“Kids haven’t really been engaged in a lot of the clinical trials, so that would be another age group for which data is needed, and we’ll be looking towards more data on pregnant women as well,” Dr. Tam said.

Asked whether he anticipates being among the earliest groups to get vaccinated, Trudeau said that he’s “going to trust the experts to make the right determination of what the priority populations are.”

With files from CTV News’ Ryan Flanagan

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PM: Feds, provinces agree vaccine prioritization should be consistent Canada-wide – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
As the precise order of who will follow seniors, health care workers and high-risk populations in line to get COVID-19 vaccines is still being sorted out, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal and provincial governments agree that there should be a cross-Canada “consensus” on the matter.

With Health Canada now beginning its assessment of a fourth potential vaccine candidate — Johnson & Johnson’s — the prime minister said talks are ongoing with the provinces and territories about the “challenging ethical and societal” aspect of the country’s vaccine rollout.

Logistics aside, governments and health care experts are having to weigh and decide who will be prioritized and what the eventual order of precedence will be for Canadians to line up and be vaccinated.

According to the preliminary guidance issued by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, prioritization will be based on three factors: the state of the pandemic when the vaccine is available; the supply available and number of doses required; and the risk-benefit analysis of key populations such as those who are at higher risk for adverse outcomes if they contract the novel coronavirus.

Based on that advisory group’s preliminary guidance, the recommendation is that essential workers and others who face increased risks related to COVID-19 should be vaccinated against the disease before everyone else. Examples of those at higher risk include providers of essential services, or those whose living or working conditions put them at higher risk.

The subsequent order of who gets vaccinated next remains a largely open question, however, in the race to see 70 per cent of Canadians vaccinated by September.

“We talked about it with the provinces last week on our 22nd first minister’s call, and there was a number of perspectives, but there seemed to be a consensus that we should all agree across the country on what that list looks like and make sure that it is applied fairly right across the country,” Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday.

“There are more conversations to come and we will keep Canadians informed as we determine what that right order of priority is. Other elements of it is, certain vaccines might be more effective with certain populations versus others, and that’s why the experts are going to be so important in making determinations around, what is the best path to move forward for our country,” said the prime minister.

Though, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said later that provinces will be able to refine the prioritizations based on their own regional demographics.

“At the end of the day it is the provinces who deliver health care and it is the provinces who will decide on the priority populations and of course we’re working closely to make sure that we have coordination across the country, and that we agree on the principles, which in fact we have, we have a shared set of principles,” Hajdu said.

“There are also some federal populations that we will obviously have to take care of ourselves as the federal government,” Hajdu said. Examples of these groups would presumably be Indigenous communities and federal inmates.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said on Tuesday that he and other premiers still have outstanding questions that need to be answered.

“Clearly we need our most vulnerable folks, our seniors… our front-line care workers to get the vaccine earlier, we can all agree on that. But the devil’s in the details, when you get beyond that. Should it be done on the basis of age? Or how do you determine vulnerability? Should it be done on the basis of ethnicity? Should it be done on the basis of race in some way? These questions have to be addressed,” Pallister said.

“We’re not saying the federal government has to do it all but we’re saying that we need to have the criteria established and the priority should be common, not different in one side of Saskatchewan’s border with Alberta than it is on the other, or not different than it is in Ottawa from Gatineau, but rather that we have a co-ordinated strategy.”

In an interview on CTV’s Power Play, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said in his province he doesn’t anticipate there will be a huge line up of people who want to get vaccinated early on, but communicating as clearly as possible in advance of who will be eligible first will help avoid a “panic situation.”

So far, just over $284 million has been spent on distributing vaccines to Canadians, with overall more than $1 billion allocated to Canada’s vaccine procurement effort, as part of a more than $14-billion commitment over the next several years on research into and development of vaccines and therapeutics.

AGE MAY BE KEY FACTOR: TAM

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday that work is underway right now on getting more “granular” in planning who among the highest risk groups will be first.

“That detail work is, you know, being taken very seriously by the provinces and territories as they begin to plan their immunization clinics.”

Then, once the priority groups are immunized, it’s possible the next easiest way to break down the order would be by age, said Tam.

“The age group, based on our analysis is actually the easiest and the most scientifically-sound way, I think, of increasing the population coverage,” she said.

“We know that underlying medical conditions put people at high risk but when we actually analyze all the different underlying medical conditions, and their age, it still comes out that the age is in fact the most important where you look at severe illness and mortality.”

There will also be groups who won’t be able to get a vaccine early on, due to the lack of research into the potential impacts on them, such as children and people who are pregnant.

“Kids haven’t really been engaged in a lot of the clinical trials, so that would be another age group for which data is needed, and we’ll be looking towards more data on pregnant women as well,” Dr. Tam said.

Asked whether he anticipates being among the earliest groups to get vaccinated, Trudeau said that he’s “going to trust the experts to make the right determination of what the priority populations are.”

With files from CTV News’ Ryan Flanagan

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – Burnaby Now

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):

2 p.m.

Nova Scotia is reporting 10 new cases of COVID-19.

Public health officials say all the new cases were found in the central zone, bringing the province’s total active case count to 142.

Rapid testing was administered at pop-up sites Monday in both Wolfville and Halifax and no cases were found at either site.

A total of 4,138 COVID-19 tests were administered in the province Monday.

1:50 p.m.

Public health officials in New Brunswick are reporting seven new cases of COVID-19 in the province Tuesday.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says there are four new cases in the Saint John zone and three new cases in the Fredericton zone.

There are currently 116 active cases in the province, and there have been 508 cases in New Brunswick since the pandemic began.

There have been seven deaths and no one is in hospital.

1:35 p.m.

Manitoba is reporting 282 new COVID-19 cases and a record 16 deaths. 

The test positivity rate remains high at 13 per cent, and Premier Brian Pallister says restrictions on business openings and public gatherings may have to remain in place for some time.

1:10 p.m.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault says his government will decide in 10 days whether the province’s COVID-19 situation will allow for multi-household gatherings at Christmas.

He says an increase in hospitalizations is straining the health-care network, and some hospitals are nearing the limit of how many COVID-19 patients they can treat.

The premier says the situation in hospitals and the toll on health-care workers will be the most important factors in determining the plan for Christmas, adding that things are not headed in the right direction.

Legault had announced last month that gatherings of up to 10 people would be allowed between Dec. 24 and 27.

1 p.m.

Another measure to limit the spread of COVID-19 took effect in Yukon today, as masks are now mandatory in all indoor, public spaces.

Yukon’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Brendan Hanley says everyone over the age of five who does not have a medical exemption will be required to wear a mask.

The order imposed under Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act carries a fine of up to $500 but Hanley says Yukon residents will first be given a chance to adapt before any enforcement begins.

Premier Sandy Silver reports eight new cases of COVID-19 in the territory since the briefing last Tuesday, bringing the total number to 47 since the start of the pandemic.

Seventeen cases are still considered active, but none related to community transmission.

12:55 p.m.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says when looking at people experiencing the most severe illness, older Canadians are more at risk than younger Canadians with pre-existing conditions.

She says that suggests after the initial round of vaccines goes to people in high-risk living or work situations, like long-term care centres and hospital staff, the next round of immunizations should be done by age, with the oldest Canadians at the front of the line.

12:52 p.m.

Manitoba handed out 100 tickets to people not following public health orders last week.

The provincial government brought in restrictions three weeks ago to deal with surging COVID-19 case numbers that set strict limits on public gatherings and require non-essential businesses to close.

Two churches that held services recently are among the establishments that have been ticketed.

12:50 p.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting one new case of COVID-19.

The case affects a man in his 50s who returned to the province from work in British Columbia.

Health officials say the man is self-isolating and contact tracing is underway.

Newfoundland and Labrador has 33 active COVID-19 cases, with 339 cases confirmed since the onset of the pandemic.

12:35 p.m.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says restrictions on public gatherings and business openings could continue into the winter.

Pallister says with cold weather ahead, there’s a risk of greater COVID-19 transmission as more people stay, and perhaps gather, indoors.

Manitoba’s daily rise in cases has levelled off somewhat after spiking last month, but health officials say it is still straining the health-care system.

12:25 p.m.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada was one of the first countries to sign a deal to get doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna.

She says it was also the fourth to sign a deal with Pfizer, and the first country without the ability to mass produce the vaccine domestically to sign with AstraZeneca.

Anand says there has been “significant misinformation” about the doses procured and when they will arrive.

11:50 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is taking on billions of dollars in more debt to protect Canadians from having to do the same thing.

Trudeau says the average credit card interest rate is more than 19 per cent, and that it makes more sense for Ottawa to shoulder more of the burden through the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn because it can borrow at rates now close to zero.

The prime minister also says his government has no intention to start cutting spending at this time, saying now is not the time for austerity.

The fall economic update released Monday proposed $25 billion in new spending to help Canadian businesses and workers make it through a COVID-19 winter promised tens of billions more to help the country recover once the pandemic passes.

11:40 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is launching efforts to support two more northern communities that are struggling with COVID-19.

The Canadian Red Cross is sending specialists to the predominantly Inuit community of Arviat in Nunavut, which has seen dozens of cases.

The Canadian Rangers are also being deployed to Hatchet Lake First Nation in northern Saskatchewan, where Trudeau says they will provide health services and support elders.

11:35 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says 80 per cent of the money spent to support and protect Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic has come from the federal government.

The prime minister says that includes tens of millions of rapid tests that are starting to be distributed across the country, as well as billions of doses of yet-to-be-delivered COVID-19 vaccines.

Trudeau says Canada is guaranteed to receive some of the first doses of the vaccine produced by U.S. pharmaceutical company Moderna once it has been approved by Health Canada.

The Moderna vaccine candidate is one of four currently being reviewed by the department.

11:30 a.m.

Prince Edward Island’s chief health officer says she expects the COVID-19 vaccine to begin arriving in her province in January 2021.

Dr. Heather Morrison says discussions are continuing between the federal and provincial governments around vaccine allocation, distribution, procurement and logistics.

She says P.E.I. will be following the national recommendations for priority groups to be immunized, but all Islanders who want the vaccine will receive it over time.

Morrison says it will take many months for all Islanders to be immunized.

She said the arrival date and the actual number of doses will be made public once the details are known.

11:05 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 1,177 new cases of COVID-19 today and 28 additional deaths associated with the novel coronavirus.

According to public health authorities, three of those deaths took place during the past 24 hours and the rest occurred earlier.

The Health Department says 719 people are currently in hospital, an increase of 26 from the previous day. Of those, 98 people are in intensive care, an increase of four from the previous day.

Quebec has reported 143,548 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic and 7,084 deaths associated with the virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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