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Canada's border agency expecting travel spike on first weekend of eased restrictions – CTV News

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WASHINGTON —
Despite a summer travel season hamstrung by COVID-19, Canada’s border agents are bracing for a spike in would-be travellers trying to enter the country on the first full weekend since travel restrictions began to ease.

The Canada Border Services Agency says incoming traffic has increased about 25 per cent since Monday, when quarantine rules were waived for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents and others already allowed to cross the border.

That trend is likely to continue this weekend, said Denis Vinette, vice-president of the agency’s travellers branch.

“We’ve been seeing kind of this 25 per cent increase over a few days, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens on the weekend,” Vinette said.

“We ask people to be patient at the border if they find that there are long lineups and folks coming in for the weekend. It’s our first test, if you will, especially in the land border environment.”

Of those seeking entry to Canada under the exemption, about half were turned away, Vinette said — mostly because they weren’t fully vaccinated or received a vaccine not cleared for use in Canada.

Only Canadian citizens, permanent residents and eligible foreign nationals who have gone two weeks since a full course of one of the four COVID-19 vaccines approved by Health Canada — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson — are exempt from quarantine.

Canada has exceptions in place for foreign nationals who are immediate family members of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, as well as a process to allow extended family members and international students to apply for entry.

Travellers must also use the ArriveCAN app or online portal to submit their vaccine information and the results of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before departure.

“The big thing for folks to understand is what qualifies as a fully exempted traveller under Canada’s definition,” Vinette said in an interview Friday.

“It is about having had one of the four Health Canada vaccines. It’s about having had the full regimens, or both shots, and having had 14 days pass after your second shot.”

Air Canada and WestJet are also helping to promote the rules with signage in airports, and airport authorities and provincial public health agencies are also doing their part, Vinette said.

Of those seeking the exemption, about half had either had only one shot, received their second dose less than 14 days before arrival or got a vaccine other than the four that have been approved in Canada, he said.

“I’m not suggesting that people are trying to, you know, squeeze themselves in; it’s more a question, I think, of folks not understanding the rules.”

Vinette said the agency is anxious to make sure people understand what has changed and what has not in order to prevent excessive delays or tie-ups at border control points.

He said the delays have not been extensive, except for at busy border crossings like Windsor-Detroit, Fort Erie, Ont., and the Pacific Highway crossing in B.C., where peak wait times were sometimes close to 45 minutes.

“That is still just the early days of verifying,” Vinette said.

“When you see that you’ve got 50 per cent or thereabouts that maybe don’t qualify, we want to make sure we aren’t affording the right to be exempt from quarantine to those who don’t qualify, especially if it’s going to create a risk in our communities.”

The ArriveCAN portal can be accessed either via the Apple or Android app or online via the federal government’s website at canada.ca. Travellers must use the latest version of the app, which was updated when the rules changed.

As for when the restrictions will be relaxed further, that remains an open question.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday he has no intention of jeopardizing Canada’s recovery from the pandemic by prematurely opening the border. He said the next step would be easing the restrictions on fully vaccinated travellers who aren’t Canadian, but didn’t say when that might happen.

South of the border, patience continues to run low.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who represents the border state of New York, urged the two countries to come up with a mutual plan to reopen the border as soon as possible — and failing that, for the U.S. to take unilateral action.

“If an agreement cannot be reached ΓǪ the United States must do two things: expand the definition of essential travel to include vaccinated Canadian citizens with family, property, educational, medical, or business interests (in the U.S.), and unilaterally open the northern border to those vaccinated Canadians,” Schumer said in a statement this week.

“For over a year, we have been told to follow the science, facts, and data; it’s time for the U.S. to do the same and finally take the first move in good faith to safely reopen the border to vaccinated Canadians.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2021.

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Inflation in Canada falls to 7.6% in first decrease in a year – CBC News

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Canada’s inflation rate fell to 7.6 per cent in July, according to a report Tuesday from Statistics Canada, marking the first time in 12 months that the rate has decreased from the previous month.

In June, inflation hit a 39-year high of 8.1 per cent, with gasoline prices the single biggest contributor to the overall rate increase.

By contrast, gasoline prices declined on a monthly basis in July, according to the agency’s consumer price index. Consumers paid 9.2 per cent less for gasoline in July than they did in June, a monthly decline not seen since April 2020.

Ontario saw a 12.2 per cent monthly decline in gas prices — the largest of any province — after the provincial government implemented a gas and fuel tax cut on July 1. But some consumers have already made significant lifestyle changes to balance out the high costs.

“I had to sell my truck and buy a smaller car,” said Cameron Benn, a small business owner based in Brampton, Ont. He said at one point this year, he was paying $1,200 monthly for gas. 

“I got to the point where it just … didn’t make sense to have [the truck] anymore,” he said, adding that the situation “sucks” because he loved the truck. 

The overall downward trend, which was expected by economists, indicates that skyrocketing inflation is starting to ease up. But it’s still a long way from the Bank of Canada’s 2.2 per cent target.

WATCH | When will ‘normal’ inflation rates return? 

‘Normal’ inflation likely 18 months away, personal finance writer says

9 hours ago

Duration 6:34

Canada’s annual inflation rate declined slightly in July to 7.6 per cent, but a return to normal inflation rates of two to three per cent is still about 18 months away, says personal finance writer Rubina Ahmed-Haq.

While inflation went up by 0.1 per cent compared to June, measures of core inflation increased, said Tu Nguyen, an economist with consulting firm RSM Canada.

That means “inflation remains pervasive across all aspects of life and not just concentrated in a few categories such as gasoline and food,” she said, adding that it will “be a while” until households can breathe a sigh of relief.

“Wage growth continues to lag inflation, resulting in households losing purchasing power. Grocery prices are still climbing due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and resulting global food shortages.”

Groceries rise at fastest pace since Aug. 1981

Groceries are pictured in a Vaughn, Ont., supermarket on Aug. 16, 2022. The war in Ukraine is affecting the price of flour globally. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Even as the cost of gas declined, prices at grocery stores rose at 9.9 per cent year-over-year, their fastest pace since Aug. 1981.

Bakery products, non-alcoholic beverages, eggs and fresh fruit are among the items seeing faster price growth. Baked goods in particular are up 13.6 per cent as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has contributed to surging wheat prices.

Higher prices for services like flights (up by 25.5 per cent), natural gas (12.4 per cent) and hotel stays (10.1 per cent) were notable contributing factors to the month-over-month increase due to a busier travel season.

Monthly rent is going up, too, according to the StatsCan report. With high interest rates sidelining buyers who can’t afford to take out mortgages, the rental market has expanded and rent prices are accelerating at a faster pace than in June.

Bank of Canada must continue to act: economist

Royce Mendes, an economist with Desjardins, told CBC News it’s clear that “the Bank of Canada has to continue to act.”

Last month, the Bank of Canada hiked rates a full percentage point to 2.5 per cent — the most recent in an ongoing and aggressive campaign to cool runaway inflation.

WATCH | Bank of Canada issues largest interest rate hike in nearly 25 years:

Bank of Canada hikes rates massively to fight inflation

1 month ago

Duration 2:19

An increase in lending rates was expected amid runaway inflation, but experts are still surprised at the size of the boost — it’s the largest in almost 25 years.

While it is widely expected that more rate hikes are to come, the question is whether the bank will issue a 50 basis point hike or a 75 basis point hike.

Even with today’s downward trending annual inflation rate, it remains to be seen how much that number will decrease without further action. As such, Mendes says he is cautious in declaring that inflation has peaked.

“There’s still a lot of inflation to come down and show up in the official statistics. And there’s still a lot of uncertainty with regards to the global economy, particularly with what’s going on in the Ukraine and what could happen this fall,” he said.

“So while I am cautiously optimistic that inflation has peaked, I’m not sure that it’s completely a done deal.”

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Canadian parliamentarians 'hoping' to make October visit to Taiwan – CBC News

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Members of Parliament’s standing committee on international trade are planning a trip to Taiwan as early as October, says the group’s chair Liberal MP Judy Sgro.

A potential fall visit to Taiwan by Canadian MPs and senators would come on the heels of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island in early August.

Pelosi’s visit — which she characterized as a mission to show Washington’s support for Taiwan and democracies worldwide — enraged the Chinese government, which considers the self-ruled island a part of its territory. Beijing responded by encircling the island and conducting live-fire military drills close to territorial waters claimed by Taiwan and Japan.

Sgro said eight members of the committee — who are all also members of Parliament’s Canada-Taiwan Friendship Group — plan to go on the trip.

“The trade committee is very anxious to go and to visit Taiwan and see what opportunities there are for deeper trade relations between our two countries,” she said.

While acknowledging the “significant strain” on international relations that followed Pelosi’s trip, Sgro said “we certainly will use diplomacy as we proceed” through what she called a “necessary” trip.

“Democracy is cherished and an important part of what we all live in every day. We need to protect other countries that have fought for their freedom and for their democracy,” she said.

“So, yes, you know, I’m trying to be diplomatic in my comments, but clearly I’m proud that Canada is standing up to China as well. And I think that pushback is very important.”

Sgro said planning for the trip began last spring. Whether the trip takes place, she added, will depend in part on the future of Taiwan’s COVID-19 protocols.

Visiting U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi waves to journalists during her arrival at the Parliament in Taipei on August 3, 2022. (Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images)

Liberal MP John McKay, who has visited Taiwan several times under the banner of the friendship group, said China’s dramatic reaction to Pelosi’s visit should not “in the least” dissuade Canada from following in her footsteps.

“My view is that China is trying to bully Taiwan and indirectly bully the rest of us on a false premise that Taiwan is part of China,” McKay said.

“That is nonsense. The Taiwanese have repeatedly expressed their desire to be an independent country and have behaved in an exemplary fashion.

“Canada should do everything to encourage Taiwan to express its democratic values. This parliamentary trip will encourage that.”

Previous iterations of the Canada-Taiwan Friendship Group have visited the island in the past, as recently as 2014. Individual MPs also have made trips to meet with Taiwanese politicians for many years, drawing the ire of Beijing.

But a fall visit by the friendship group would come at a time of heightened tensions between the Canadian and Chinese governments.

Defence Minister Anita Anand said China’s decision to conduct military drills following Pelosi’s visit was an “unnecessary escalation.”

“There is no justification to use a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait,” Anand said.

China’s vice foreign minister urged Canada to “immediately correct its mistakes” after the G7 issued a condemnation of China’s actions.

Friendship groups represent only informal relations

The Canada-Taiwan Friendship Group is one of dozens of so-called “friendship groups” on Parliament Hill. There were 89 members of the group in 2021, according to a statement released by the Taiwanese government.

The informal nature of friendship groups allows MPs and senators to maintain relations with a variety of governments and communities outside the scope of official government activities.

Under the One China policy adopted by the vast majority of the international community, Canada has only informal diplomatic relations with the Taiwanese government.

Other active friendship groups include the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group and the Canada-Uyghur Parliamentary Friendship Group.

Friendship groups do not receive administrative or financial support from the Parliament of Canada.

A delegation of German parliamentarians is also set to visit Taiwan in the first week of October.

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Taliban celebrate one year anniversary of taking over Afghanistan

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Kabul, Afghanistan- The Taliban took to the streets on Monday to celebrate their one-year anniversary since they took over the country last year.

Just over a month after the official announcement that the United States (US) army would withdraw from Afghanistan, the Taliban took over the capital city, Kabul, on August 15, 2021.

The Afghan army’s swift collapse took the world by surprise, precipitating the fall of Kabul and sending tens of thousands of Afghan soldiers and their families into exile.

However, Afghanistan is in the midst of a medical crisis that is worsening by the day, exacerbated by an economy in freefall, the freezing of the country’s assets, and the drying up of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid that flowed into the country for two decades, because the Taliban has taken control.

To make matters worse, the White House on Monday ruled out releasing US$3.5 billion in funds held in the US back to Afghanistan’s Central Bank anytime soon, citing that Al Qaeda’s leadership had taken refuge in the heart of Kabul apparently with the protection of the Taliban government.

“Right now, we are looking at mechanisms that could be put in place to see to it that these US$3.5 billion in preserved assets make their way efficiently and effectively to the people of Afghanistan in a way that doesn’t make them ripe for diversion to terrorist groups or elsewhere,” said Ned Price, the State Department’s spokesperson.

The issue of the frozen money remains one of the most sensitive questions a year after US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw the last American troops from Afghanistan, leading to the fall of the Western-backed government and the Taliban’s return to power. The White House has been acutely sensitive to the approach of the anniversary, anticipating that it would renew criticism of the chaotic American withdrawal and the restoration of a draconian regime of repression, especially targeting women and girls.

Meanwhile, Thomas West, the American government’s special representative for Afghanistan, said that American officials have engaged for months now with the Central Bank about how to shore up Afghanistan’s economy but have not secured persuasive guarantees that the money would not fall into terrorist hands.

“We do not have confidence that that institution has the safeguards and monitoring in place to manage assets responsibly, and needless to say, the Taliban’s sheltering of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri reinforces deep concerns we have regarding diversion of funds to terrorist groups,” said West.

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