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Canada's largest province to impose holiday lockdown to avoid 'catastrophic' Covid fallout – POLITICO

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OTTAWA — Canada’s holiday season will be even quieter this year as Ontario, by far the country’s most-populous province, announces weeks of stricter coronavirus lock-downs starting Dec. 26.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford made the announcement Monday as his province — and much of Canada — deals with a stubborn resurgence of Covid-19. The province is home to nearly 39 percent of all Canadians.

“We’ve seen in other jurisdictions what out-of-control caseloads and deaths look like,” Ford told reporters. “Thousands of lives are at stake right now. If we fail to take action now the consequences could be catastrophic.”

Ford spoke hours after a top provincial health official warned Ontario’s ability to control Covid-19’s spread was still “very precarious.”

Following Quebec’s lead: Ontario followed neighboring Quebec, which reintroduced tougher measures at the start of the holiday season. Quebec, which is the country’s second-most populous province, is cracking down on private gatherings for the vast majority of Quebecers between Dec. 17 and Jan. 10.

Combined, Ontario and Quebec are home to more than 23 million people or just above 60 percent of Canada’s population.

The Ontario’s shutdowns: The new restrictions will be in place for four weeks in the province’s much more densely populated south, which includes cities like Toronto and Ottawa. In the smaller cities and communities of northern Ontario, containment measures will apply for two weeks.

The measures go into effect at 12:01 a.m. ET on Dec. 26.

They include shutting down in-person shopping at most retail stores, prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining, restricting indoor access to shopping malls and limiting gatherings to members of the same household.

Asked why Ontario did not impose the tougher measures immediately, Ford said he wanted to give some breathing room to businesses. He added that he wants to be fair to businesses with big inventories as well as those that will be forced to shut down for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

A look at Ontario: The pandemic has been applying significant pressure on Ontario’s health care system. Ford said in recent weeks hospitalizations were up 70 percent and intensive care admissions rose 80 percent.

“Our ability to control case growth is still very precarious,” Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario’s Covid-19 science advisory table, told a press conference Monday after releasing updated models for the province. “This continued low-level growth that we’ve seen is just adding greater and greater pressures and removing more and more of our ability to control the growth of the pandemic.”

Brown, who is also dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, said the case growth of around one percent has remained consistent for about the last two months despite authorities’ warnings about the situation.

“In terms of the length of the lock-down, … we don’t believe anything less than four weeks will be effective and longer durations will be more effective — six weeks gives a significant added likely reduction in case numbers,” he said.

Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, has been a bright spot in the province in terms of getting Covid under control. But Ford said despite its resilience Ottawa will also be under lock-down out of concern about a potential influx of visitors from nearby Quebec.

Canada’s Covid-19 status: The country has seen an average of 177.8 new Covid cases daily during the past seven days, according Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center data compiled by the National Bank of Canada.

In comparison, the same set of data said an average of 654.9 new cases have been reported each day of the past week in the United States.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said Monday that the country has reported 507,795 cases since the start of the pandemic and 14,228 deaths. Health authorities are also monitoring the genetic variant of the virus that causes Covid-19 that was identified in the United Kingdom.

Ford said he’s also “extremely alarmed” by reports of a new strain of the virus that is much more contagious. He called it an “extremely serious threat” that must be taken seriously.

He urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to impose tougher measures at Toronto’s Pearson airport, where he said 63,000 per week have been arriving from abroad.

Ford said he’s been asking the Trudeau government for “weeks upon weeks” about getting testing at the airport.

“Why they’re ignoring us on this is beyond me,” said Ford, adding that not enough people coming into the country are sticking to the quarantine rules. “These people are roaming the streets and we’re letting it happen.”

Economic consequences: Canada’s economy, like so many around the world, has taken a beating from coronavirus lockdowns.

Small- and medium-sized businesses have been among the hardest hit and the prospect of additional weeks of restrictions is feeding fears of more economic damage.

“Regardless of whether you support or oppose additional lock-downs in Ontario, spare a thought for the 1000s of small business owners who will lose everything they’ve worked for as a result of this decision,” Dan Kelly, the president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business wrote Monday on Twitter. “Biz owners are hanging by a thread & the Ontario govt is about to cut it.”

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Unifor members approve pact that will see GM invest $1B in CAMI plant – CBC.ca

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Unifor members have voted to approve General Motors Canada’s plan to invest $1 billion in an electric vehicle plant in southern Ontario.

The union’s 1,900 Local 88 members voted online Sunday on a tentative deal with the automaker to transform GM’s CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., into a hub for producing electric commercial delivery vans.

The union said members voted about 91 per cent in favour of the deal and that work will begin immediately to ready the plant to begin van production in November.

The industry has been hit hard over the last decade as automakers cut jobs in the province and production work flowed to the U.S. and Mexico. Unifor has spent much of the last year striking deals with GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler that will pump $6 billion into Canada’s auto manufacturing industry.

“The stakes going into these negotiations were high with the (Chevrolet) Equinox program ending, and there wasn’t a time during these difficult negotiations that we were not thinking about our members and their families,” said a statement by Mike Van Boekel, chair of Unifor’s master bargaining committee.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias credited the deal to hard work by the local bargaining unit and collaboration with the Ontario and federal governments despite complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To achieve this level of commitment for auto manufacturing shows what can happen when we have a collective vision to secure this sector and create good jobs for Canadians,” Dias said in a statement.

With the Ingersoll plant wrapping up Chevrolet Equinox production in 2023, the plan also comes as GM is trying to transform its business to focus more on electric vehicles.

Last week, the automaker unveiled an updated logo focused on electric vehicles and made headlines at the CES technology trade show. GM Canada president Scott Bell said it was a good sign that Canada was identified as the home of the new electric van just three days after GM announced the new venture.

“GM Canada engineers in Markham and Oshawa were instrumental in the early stages of ideation and testing of this truly innovative solution for the massive global delivery industry,” Bell said in a statement.

“With more than $2 billion in new combined investments announced for Oshawa, St. Catharines and Ingersoll, we are standing up as one of Canada’s most confident investors.”

Bell said the mayors of the Ontario communities, as well as the union and nearby universities, helped move along the Canadian investments. He also said GM’s vision aligns with the Canadian government’s “leadership in addressing electricity prices, industrial taxes.”

Federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said in a statement on Monday that the government will work with the company on the project and that it is “prepared to support the future of Canada’s auto sector.”

The investments from GM and other automakers, said Champagne, “demonstrate clearly that our government’s policies, working alongside our partners in industry and labour, are driving historic private sector investment.”

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Alberta cancels 11 coal leases, pauses future sales – CTV Toronto

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After weeks of public pressure, Alberta has cancelled 11 coal leases and is pausing future sales in former Category 2 lands, Energy Minister Sonya Savage announced Monday.

“We have listened carefully to the concerns raised in recent days, and thank those who spoke up with passion,” she said in a statement.

“I want to be absolutely clear: Under the current terms, just as it was under the 1976 coal policy, coal leases do not allow for exploration, development or production without a comprehensive regulatory review.

“A lease holder has no more right to set foot on lease property than any other Albertan. The same rules apply now, as before.”

The cancelled leases are a small portion of the coal exploration leases the government has issued since revoking a policy that protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies — home to endangered species as well as the water source for millions downstream — since 1976.

The decision came as more than 100,000 signatures had been collected on two petitions opposing increased mining on two related fronts.

One, sponsored by environmental groups on Change.org, was addressed to the provincial government and had 77,000 signatures Monday afternoon — an increase of about 10,000 over the weekend.

Another, sponsored by a private citizen and addressed to federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, had nearly 28,000 names opposing the Benga coal project in southern Alberta, which is undergoing a federal-provincial environmental review.

As well, a Facebook site called Protect Alberta’s Rockies and Headwaters has more than doubled its membership over the last week to more than 10,000. The Benga review has received more than 4,000 statements of concern from members of the public, the vast majority opposing the project.

Alberta’s NDP Environment Critic Marlin Schmidt issued a statement soon after the announcement was made.

“Today’s backpedaling from the UCP on their removal of protections for Category 2 public lands is a small victory for the thousands upon thousands of Albertans who have spoken up against this UCP government’s reckless decision to rip up Peter Lougheed’s coal policy,” he said.

“While the UCP government has agreed to cancel the 11 most recently issued coal leases, there are another eight leases they sold last May that remain in effect.

“Further, they still have not committed to reinstating the coal policy and to consulting before making further changes. Without these commitments, these precious wild spaces are still under threat.”

Katie Morrison, the conservation director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) said in an interview that the move was “actually not that significant of a change,” saying it still leaves 420,000 hectares of land unprotected, including the area around Grassy Mountain, which has been the source of media interest because of comments from country musicians Corb Lund, Paul Brandt and kd lang opposing mining.

“It’s a step that they’re feeling the pressure,” Morrison said, “but I think it still shows they are still not listening to Albertans.”

“Albertans are saying we don’t want you doing open pit coal mining. We want the coal policy back and this announcement in no way addresses those concerns of Albertans.”

Savage said the pause “will provide our government with the opportunity to ensure that the interests of Albertans, as owners of mineral resources, are protected.”

“Coal development remains an important part of the Western Canadian economy, especially in rural communities, but we are committed to demonstrating that it will only be developed responsibly under Alberta’s modern regulatory standards and processes,” she said.

“This decision has no impact on existing coal projects currently under regulatory review.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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Alberta cancels recently issued coal leases in response to public outcry – Global News

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The Alberta government has reversed its plans to expand coal mining in the Rocky Mountains.

Public opposition to the move has grown significantly in the last number of days, with tens of thousands of people signing petitions, writing letters and joining online groups.

Read more:
Public opposition growing: Petitions against Alberta coal mines top 100K signatures

Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in an emailed statement that the province would cancel 11 recently issued coal leases and pause any future coal lease sales in former Category 2 lands.

“We have listened carefully to the concerns raised in recent days, and thank those who spoke up with passion,” she said.

“As a result, we will pause future coal lease sales in former Category 2 lands. The coal leases from the December 2020 auction will be cancelled.”

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Click to play video 'Impact of Alberta rolling back open-pit coal mine restrictions'



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Impact of Alberta rolling back open-pit coal mine restrictions


Impact of Alberta rolling back open-pit coal mine restrictions – Aug 19, 2020

“I want to be absolutely clear: Under the current terms, just as it was under the 1976 coal policy, coal leases do not allow for exploration, development or production without a comprehensive regulatory review. A lease holder has no more right to set foot on lease property than any other Albertan. The same rules apply now, as before.”

Read more:
Alberta offers Rocky Mountain coal leases after rescinding protection policy

“This pause will provide our government with the opportunity to ensure that the interests of Albertans, as owners of mineral resources, are protected.

“Coal development remains an important part of the Western Canadian economy, especially in rural communities, but we are committed to demonstrating that it will only be developed responsibly under Alberta’s modern regulatory standards and processes.

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“This decision has no impact on existing coal projects currently under regulatory review.”

More than 100,000 signatures had been collected by Monday on two petitions opposing the United Conservative government’s move on two related fronts.

READ MORE: Alberta offers Rocky Mountain coal leases after rescinding protection policy

A Facebook site called Protect Alberta’s Rockies and Headwaters has more than doubled its membership over the last week to more than 10,000.

Last week, musician Corb Lund posted a Facebook video lambasting the province’s plans to open a vast stretch of its Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining.

“The scope of this thing — it’s huge,” Lund said in an interview.

“I’m from the foothills and it threatens the hell out of our water. And the mountains. It’s a big one.”

Read more:
Alberta musician Corb Lund on proposed coal mines in Rockies: ‘I 100% oppose these policy changes’

The NDP said the decision is a “small victory” but that eight leases that were already sold remain in effect.

“Today’s backpedaling from the UCP on their removal of protections for Category 2 public lands is a small victory for the thousands upon thousands of Albertans who have spoken up against this UCP government’s reckless decision to rip up Peter Lougheed’s coal policy,” NDP Environment Critic Marlin Schmidt said in a statement.

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“While the UCP government has agreed to cancel the 11 most recently issued coal leases, there are another eight leases they sold last May that remain in effect.

“Further, they still have not committed to reinstating the coal policy and to consulting before making further changes. Without these commitments, these precious wild spaces are still under threat.”

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society is still very worried about existing coal leases.

“While this is a step in the right direction, this ‘pause’ will have little effect on the ability of existing leases to be explored and developed for coal in the region,” said Katie Morrison, conservation director with CPAWS Southern Alberta.

“There are more than 840,000 hectares of coal leases and rights in the Eastern Slopes (of the Rocky Mountains). This area includes around 420,000 hectares within lands formerly protected as Category 2 (an area approximately the size of Kananaskis Country) that are now, and still with today’s announcement, open for development as open-pit coal mines. These areas continue to be open and at risk from coal exploration and mine development.”

The group says the 11 leases covered in the province’s announcement are small and only cover about 1,800 hectares — or 0.002 per cent of the area that’s already been leased.

“Whether or not the coal leases were existing or new, open-pit coal mines are now allowed in Alberta’s headwaters where they previously were not,” Morrison explained.

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CPAWS is urging the government to fully reinstate the province’s previous coal policy, hold public consultations on the issue and permanently prohibit new coal proposals, exploration and open-pit mines in these areas.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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