The federal government owes Canadian families in three provinces more than $200 million after underestimating how much it would raise from the carbon tax during the first year of the program.
By law, all revenued from the carbon price are to be returned to the province in which they were raised, with 10 per cent going into funds to help smaller businesses, schools, hospitals and municipal governments cut their own emissions and 90 per cent going to families through income tax rebates.
The government didn’t meet that threshold in Ontario, Manitoba or New Brunswick.
The Canada Revenue Agency did not provide data for New Brunswick, but said based on those who filed 2019 taxes thus far, more than 8.7 million people claimed the Climate Action Initiative in 2019.
Only one person per household can claim the rebate and the amount is based on the size of each family. Rebates differ by province because there are different rates of fuel consumption.
Ottawa says it adjusted the rebates planned for this year to make up the difference, except in New Brunswick, which is no longer part of the national carbon tax program and will get its 2019 payment in a cheque directly to the province.
Saskatchewan’s 2021 rebates will be slightly smaller after Ottawa overestimated what it would collect in that province two years ago.
After 2022, Ottawa to raise carbon tax to $170/tonne by 2030
But none of that accounting was made clear when Ottawa unveiled the 2021 rebates, which for a family of four will range from a low of $600 in Ontario, to a high of $1,000 in Saskatchewan.
“If government is taking from taxpayers, they should be able to account for it in a way that makes sense and is clearly presented,” said Conservative environment critic Dan Albas. “And that’s not the case here.”
When the carbon tax was implemented in April 2019, it was imposed in only four provinces, with the rest exempted because they had comparable carbon pricing systems of their own.
New Brunswick has since converted to using its own, while Alberta was added to the federal version after scrapping its own provincial program.
Ottawa’s programs for smaller businesses, and municipalities and schools are also underfunded based on the estimates and funds are to be added to them to make up the difference.
The rebates are adjusted each year as the carbon tax goes up $10 per tonne until 2022, and then by $15 a year until 2030. The average passenger car produces a tonne of greenhouse gases about every four months.
Because the rebates are given out ahead of the payments being collected, Ottawa anticipated having to adjust its rebates each year.
Doug Ford says increase in federal carbon pricing will be ‘the worst thing you could ever see’
The issue may be compounded in 2020 because nobody developing the model for how much fuel would be consumed anticipated a global pandemic would send much of the country into lockdowns for months.
Gasoline use is way down, electricity use shifted heavily from downtown office towers to private homes, and airplane use plummeted. All of that likely means Canadians got a lot more in the carbon price rebate for 2020-21 than they should have.
The government is working toward providing the rebates every three months instead of just once a year, in the hopes that will make forecasting the amounts more accurate. But the earliest that is going to happen is 2022.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
Health Canada approves use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine – CBC.ca
Health Canada has approved use of the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, clearing the way for millions of more inoculations in Canada.
Canada’s regulatory experts had been assessing the submission from AstraZeneca and Oxford University for safety and efficacy since October, and announced their approval Friday morning.
“AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine is indicated for active immunization of individuals 18 years of age and older for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019,” reads their website.
“The efficacy of the vaccine was estimated to be 62.1 per cent. Overall, there are no important safety concerns and the vaccine was well tolerated by participants.”
Canada has secured access to 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Some jurisdictions, notably France, have restricted the vaccine to people under the age of 65 despite the World Health Organization’s insistence that the product is safe and effective for all age groups. Health Canada said it has no immediate safety concerns for those 65 and older.
The regulator said the clinical trial results “were too limited to allow a reliable estimate of vaccine efficacy in individuals 65 years of age and older.”
“Efficacy in individuals 65 years of age and older is supported by immunogenicity data, emerging real world evidence and post-market experience in regions where the vaccine has been deployed, which suggest at this point in time a potential benefit and no safety concerns,” said the approval.
“Efficacy in this age group will be updated as additional data becomes available from currently ongoing trials.”
Health officials are expected to give a technical briefing on the approval at 10 a.m.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, members of his cabinet along with Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and her deputy Dr. Howard Njoo will give an update at 11:30 a.m. ET. CBC News will carry it live.
Regulator still reviewing 2 other vaccine candidates
Earlier this week, Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, told the House of Commons health committee that the regulator has received all the necessary scientific information from the company but was still looking into questions about labelling and the product monograph — the information disseminated by Health Canada to medical professionals about how and when a vaccine should be administered and in what groups.
Health Canada has approved the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are already being rolled out in Canada.
Unlike those two shots, which are based on mRNA technology, the AstraZeneca uses more conventional viral vector technology.
Health Canada is reviewing two other vaccines: one from Johnson & Johnson and another from Novavax.
Other countries — notably Australia, the European Union and the United Kingdom — have already authorized AstraZeneca for use in their jurisdictions.
U.S. ticketing company's box office bust costing grassroots Canadian artists – CBC.ca
Community theatre director Nicole Jennissen believed she did everything right staging her original play, Love in the Time of COVID, in September 2020.
It was written as a series of vignettes, keeping actors in two-or-three-person bubbles. It was performed outside obeying health guidelines. And it was completed inexpensively for non-profit Tumbleweed Theatre of Brooks, Alta.
“In fact, the only two lines on the budget were masks and hand sanitizer,” Jennissen said.
But the romantic comedy became a tragedy.
Tumbleweed used Seattle-based Brown Paper Tickets to handle ticketing online to avoid cash but Brown Paper is facing complaints and legal action over allegations of not paying collected ticket proceeds.
Jennissen alleged Brown Paper owes $2,030 for Love in the Time of COVID. Despite repeatedly contacting the company, she has no idea when or if Tumbleweed will be paid.
“It’s absolutely defeating,” she said. “We put all of this effort in and the money that our patrons expected to come to us is not sitting with us.”
Other Canadian artists and organizations alleged they too are owed money from Brown Paper or their audiences are owed refunds for events cancelled by the pandemic.
Washington State is suing, claiming it has received 583 complaints and the company owes more than $6.75 million US across the United States.
The state’s attorney general said 80,000 people in the U.S. may be affected by the company’s conduct.
Artists and organizations in Canada, having spent up to 11 months trying to get answers from the company, are wondering when or if they or their audiences will ever see the money they say Brown Paper collected on their behalf.
Popular with grassroots artists
CBC News called and emailed Brown Paper several times to comment on this story but received no reply.
In a September statement, the company promised better communication.
“While we can’t offer an estimated timeline for your specific refund at this moment, our team has been and continues to initiate full refunds to ticket holders… and pay event organizers,” the statement read.
“Like many businesses, we were unprepared for a crisis of this scale but we are making headway.”
Brown Paper is popular with smaller arts organizations for its low fees.
Audience members purchase their ticket from Brown Paper online, then, after the event, Brown Paper passes collected money to event organizers, minus a service charge.
Jennissen said $2,030 might not seem like a lot but Tumbleweed relies solely on ticket sales for funding.
“When we can’t do a lot of shows… that’s a huge cut for us,” she said. “This is going to affect the ability for us to do shows.”
Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival artistic director Robert Remington said his festival sold $20,415 of advance tickets through Brown Paper for their June 2020 jamboree on Vancouver Island.
In April 2020, the pandemic forced the festival to cancel. Organizers told Brown Paper to issue refunds, which should have taken two to six weeks.
Almost 11 months later, no one has been paid back, Remington said, so the festival is reimbursing ticket holders from its own contingency fund.
“We just feel an obligation to our fans to take care of them,” Remington said. “For an all-volunteer, community-run festival… $20,000 is a lot of money.”
Refunding the tickets might mean a scaled-back festival going forward.
‘It’s really frustrating’
Victoria-based roots rocker Stephen Fearing was to play a gig in March 2020. Brown Paper sold tickets online.
The show was cancelled over the pandemic. His promoter told Brown Paper to refund ticket buyers.
Some fans passed on a refund to donate $2,200 to Fearing but he still hasn’t seen a cent.
“Their generosity never got to me,” Fearing said. “It’s really frustrating.”
Marc Jenkins, another Victoria-based musician, had two Bob Dylan tribute shows at Herman’s Jazz Club in May 2020.
The shows were cancelled with $700 of tickets sold through Brown Paper. No refunds have yet been given.
“The most frustrating part is just being left in the dark and having to answer emails from folks,” Jenkins said.
“I never got the money from them in the first place. I’m just standing in the middle getting yelled at.”
Jenkins said some of his audience members wanted to donate their money as well but he hasn’t been able to confirm how many and he hasn’t received any cash.
“It might not seem like a lot of money… but it is important,” Jenkins said. “It’s tough when there’s not many gigs coming in.”
The lawsuit filed by Washington State is presently in the discovery stage, a spokesperson from the attorney general’s office said this week.
While individuals are not eligible to join in attorney general enforcement actions, the spokesperson said, the attorney general’s office “routinely” seeks court orders for financial restitution for all impacted consumers under the state’s Consumer Protection Act.
At least two separate class action lawsuits have been filed in the U.S., but CBC hasn’t seen any that are certified.
Pittsburgh-based law firm Carlson Lynch is behind one.
“It’s sort of like musical chairs… when the music stopped, they were holding all this money,” said lawyer Jamisen Etzel.
“Where did the money go?”
CBC Vancouver’s Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email email@example.com.
Head of Canada's largest pension plan received COVID-19 vaccine in Dubai: memo – CTV News
The head of Canada’s largest pension fund received a COVID-19 vaccination while on a “very personal” trip to Dubai, he told staff in an email Thursday night.
Mark Machin disclosed the information in an internal memo after the Wall Street Journal reported he flew to the United Arab Emirates earlier this month, where he received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and is awaiting the second dose.
Machin said in the email viewed by The Canadian Press that he remains in Dubai with his partner “for many reasons, some of which are deeply personal.”
“This was a very personal trip and was undertaken after careful consideration and consultation,” the memo reads.
CPP Investments did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday evening.
The federal government is actively discouraging Canadians from travelling abroad and recently implemented strict quarantine measures for those returning home.
Machin told staff he followed all travel protocols related to his role as head of the pension fund while on the trip.
“This trip was intended to be very private and I am disappointed it has become the focus of public attention and expected criticism,” he wrote.
Several politicians and health-care officials have become high profile flashpoints of public anger in recent months for leaving the country despite public health advice to the contrary.
Among them, the former CEO of the London Health Sciences Centre is now embroiled in litigation after his travel to the U.S. prompted the hospital to terminate his contract.
Rod Phillips, Ontario’s former finance minister, resigned from his post in late December after taking a personal trip to St. Barts.
CPP Investments, which had $475.7 billion in assets under management as of Dec. 31, invests money on behalf of retired and active employees covered by the Canada Pension Plan.
A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said that while CPPIB is an independent organization, the revelation is “very troubling.”
“The federal government has been clear with Canadians that now is not the time to travel abroad,” Katherine Cuplinskas said in an emailed statement.
“We were not made aware of this travel and further questions should be directed to the CPPIB on this matter.”
Machin, who has been in his current role since 2016, joined CPP Investments in 2012. Prior to joining the pension fund manager, he spent 20 years at investment bank Goldman Sachs.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021.
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