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Canada's 'broken' quarantine hotel booking system means family could face a hefty fine – CBC.ca

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A Burlington, Ont. father says he’s been calling the federal government hotline since Friday to book a quarantine hotel for his daughter, who is flying home from Australia. But he just can’t get through. 

Dave Buttrum says he was placed on hold five times over the weekend, and was disconnected each time after the three-hour mark. As of Tuesday, he hasn’t had any luck. Now he’s worried his daughter may face a hefty fine for violating the government’s Quarantine Act.

The government’s hotel quarantine plan for air travellers, he said, has been “absolute nonsense.”

“I can’t figure out how you’re supposed to comply with a system if it’s broken,” he said in an interview with Ontario Today on Monday. 

Other travellers across the country are also experiencing these bogged down phone lines, and worry they won’t be able to secure a room before boarding their flight.

As of Monday, most people travelling into Canada by air have to pre-book a stay at a hotel to start their quarantine. The bookings must be at hotels on a government-approved list, and the stay is up to three days.

Travellers also have to make their booking through a government phone line. There is no online option.

Buttrum’s daughter has been in Australia on a travel visa since January 2020. She returns at the end of this week since her health insurance has run out.

While the Pubic Health Agency of Canada has said people should only call the booking number if their flight is scheduled within the next 48 hours, Buttrum says he’s reluctant to wait given the delays he’s experiencing now. 

“Do I take the chance that she gets denied boarding?” he said, noting there’s also the risk that his daughter could also be fined. 

“It’s an exercise in utter frustration. They’ve implemented this system. They haven’t put the right resources or thought into it, and it’s absolutely not functional.” 

covid-19 measure for entering canada by air (CBC)

The Public Health Agency of Canada told CBC News that the maximum penalties for breaking the Quarantine Act include a fine of up to $750,000 and/or six months in prison. 

Discretion on fines

During a COVID-19 update on Tuesday, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc said it would be up to the discretion of officers with the Canada Border Services Agency on whether or not to charge people who have made the attempts, but could not reach someone to book a hotel room. 

LeBlanc said he expects discretion to be used intelligently, but also for Canadians to take the necessary measures prior to their arrival. 

Buttrum said there’s no issue with wanting to comply or with meeting the mandated 14-day quarantine.

He said he understands the federal government’s intent, but doesn’t necessarily agree with the hotel quarantine, especially in light of the issues with implementing it. 

“I hope that she can get through,” Buttrum said.

He also added the government shouldn’t be “penalizing Canadians” who are trying to get home. 

He said his daughter booked multiple flights home over the past few months, which fell through three times as portions of her route back to Canada were cancelled by the airlines. Earlier in the pandemic, flights were costing thousands of dollars, he said, even nearing $9,000 at one point. 

Since his daughter was in a safe zone, he said, it was a better decision to stay there. 

CBC News reached out to Buttrum’s local MP Pam Damoff (Oakville-North Burlington) about advice for other Burlington residents, but was told to speak with the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

An email from a spokesperson in her office to Buttrum says the centre received over 27,000 calls daily over the weekend. It added additional operators to answer questions, as well as agents to book hotels.

“These wait times are expected to come down over the next week, however demand remains high,” the spokesperson wrote.

“At this point you and your daughter should continue to call until you can get through. To ease the load they’re asking for everyone to wait until 48 hours before their flights, but I understand the stress to get it booked as soon as possible.”

The hotel is responsible for transporting travellers from the airport, and providing them with three nights that meet the Public Health Agency of Canada requirements, as well as necessities including meals, telephone and Wi-Fi. 

It also has to report information about the person’s check-in, check-out, and their compliance with the Quarantine Act. 

Here are the phone lines for the hotel room booking system. They are open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, seven days a week: 1-800-294-8253 (toll-free within North America) or 1-613-830-2992 (collect outside of North America)  

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Iran indicts 10 over Ukraine plane crash, prosecutor says; Canada demands justice

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has indicted 10 officials over the shooting-down of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January 2020 that killed all 176 people on board, a military prosecutor said on Tuesday.

In a report published last month, Iran’s civil aviation body blamed the crash on a misaligned radar and an error by an air defence operator. Ukraine and Canada, home to many of those who died, criticised the report as insufficient.

“Indictments have been issued for 10 officials involved in the crash of the Ukrainian plane…and necessary decisions will be taken in court,” Gholam Abbas Torki, the outgoing military prosecutor for Tehran province, was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency ISNA. He did not elaborate.

In Ottawa, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “tremendously concerned about the lack of accountability” from Iran about the disaster.

Canada, along with its partners, will continue to press Tehran to deliver justice and compensation for families of the victims, he told a briefing when asked about the indictments.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight on Jan. 8, 2020, shortly after it took off from Tehran Airport.

The Iranian government later said the shooting-down was a “disastrous mistake” by its forces at a time when they were on high alert in a regional confrontation with the United States.

Iran was on edge about possible attacks after it fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for the killing days before of its most powerful military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. missile strike at Baghdad airport.

 

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich)

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Canadian oil producers CNRL, Cenovus plan new emissions targets, no pivot to renewables

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CNRL

By Rod Nickel and Nia Williams

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) -Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNRL) and Cenovus Energy Inc, two of Canada‘s biggest oil producers, said on Tuesday they would set new goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but not pivot away from their core businesses.

Oil sands producers, which extract some of the world’s most carbon-intense crude, face investor pressure to reduce their environmental impact. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to raise Canada‘s carbon price steeply over time to position the country for carbon-neutral status by 2050.

CNRL’s corporate emissions-cutting goal will be announced in the second quarter, President Tim McKay said at the Scotiabank CAPP Energy Symposium, which is being held remotely.

The company cut carbon intensity per barrel by 18% between 2016 and 2020 and sees carbon capture as a way to further reduce its environmental toll, McKay said.

It does not plan major investments in renewable energy as European oil majors have done.

“The preference is to stick with what we know and what we’re good at,” McKay said. “There’s going to be a need for oil long-term.”

Cenovus is also planning new emissions-cutting targets and might invest in renewable power partnerships.

“Where we’re likely to remain is focused on oil and gas production,” Cenovus Chief Executive Officer Alex Pourbaix told the symposium. “But don’t look for us to become a late-entrant renewable-power developer.”

Suncor Energy Inc is on track to achieve its goal of cutting the emissions intensity of production by 30% versus 2014 levels by 2030, said Chief Financial Officer Alister Cowan, and is now talking about updating its target beyond 2030.

Imperial Oil Ltd could adopt technologies of parent company Exxon Mobil Corp like carbon capture and biofuel blending, Senior Vice President of Finance Dan Lyons said.

“When it comes to wind farms and solar farms, that’s not really in our wheelhouse.”

Sticking to fossil fuels will jeopardize the businesses long-term, said Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada.

“They will go the way of Blockbuster Video once Netflix arrived,” Stewart said.

Canada‘s transition to a low-carbon economy could displace up to 450,000 oil and gas workers over the next three decades, TD Economics said.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Nia Williams in Calgary; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Peter Cooney)

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Saskatchewan sees bigger, C$2.6-billion deficit to fight pandemic

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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – The Canadian province of Saskatchewan forecast on Tuesday a C$2.6-billion ($2.07 billion)deficit in the current 2021-22 fiscal year, up from last year’s C$1.9 billion, as the pandemic drives up costs.

The province, whose economy relies on farming, oil production and mining, is running a larger deficit so it can effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis, Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said.

Canadian provincial governments, like the national government, have run bigger deficits since the pandemic began, trying to slow its spread and buttress economies that lockdowns have hit hard.

With government debt rising, credit rating agencies are watching closely for provincial strategies to tame deficits, TD Economics said in a report last month.

Saskatchewan expects to continue running deficits until balancing the books in 2026-27, the provincial government said while introducing its new budget.

The Saskatchewan Party government, led by Premier Scott Moe, forecast spending to increase by 7% to C$17.1 billion from last year, including costs such as vaccinations, tests for infection and purchases of protective equipment.

It forecast provincial revenues for the 2021-22 fiscal year at C$14.5 billion, up nearly 3% from last year.

Saskatchewan’s real gross domestic product looks to grow 3.4% in 2021 after contracting 4.2% last year, the government said.

The budget assumes an average North American oil futures price of $54.33 per barrel during its fiscal year, generating C$505.1 million in royalties.

Neighboring Alberta estimated in February that its 2021-22 budget deficit would shrink to C$18.2 billion, as its economy starts to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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