Google is tripling its workforce in Canada, adding new offices in Toronto, Montreal and Waterloo, Ont. The tech giant is investing in a skills development program to make sure there’s enough talent to fill those jobs and funding an accelerator to help startups secure funding.
“That’s going to give us the capacity to grow to 5,000 people by 2022,” says Ruth Porat, chief financial officer of Google’s parent company Alphabet. “It really reflects the extraordinary momentum that we’re seeing in Canada.”
When a company as big and powerful as Google decides to triple its workforce in Canada, everyone else is forced to take notice. That means local companies struggling to find and retain talent will be even more stretched. It means there’s one more player seeking attention and funding.
But it also means the country has accomplished something extraordinary. 10 years ago, Canada’s tech community was worried about very different things.
“Our biggest fear (then) was that talent was moving south,” says Alex Norman. He co-founded Tech Toronto to help grow the tech community and now runs a venture capital fund for early-stage Canadian tech companies called N49P Ventures (for North of the 49th Parellel).
“Go back 10 years, if you got an offer from Google, they were expecting you to move to San Francisco or maybe New York and you would do it,” says Norman. But he says the real message of this week’s announcement is that Canada has built a tech ecosystem that’s turned that equation on its head.
“That’s what the message is,” says Norman. “We’ve created the right environment where people want to work, people can come work and then companies realize they can’t poach talent and bring them down, they have to come here to get access to that talent.”
Sure, he says, that will mean some short-term pain in terms of recruiting talent. But he says that’s what success looks like. Every ecosystem is fragile, big fish and little fish living in balance.
“We don’t want to become a branch-plant economy,” says Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech, an organization that helps tech companies in Waterloo start up and grow. “But we also understand the need for diversity in an ecosystem, diversity in an economy. Small companies are key because they will grow.”
Even (or perhaps especially) Google agrees.
“We do well when the broader ecosystem does well,” says Porat.
So, the bigger question is: How do tech companies keep that momentum and prove this success is sustainable on the long term?
Ask anyone in Canada’s tech world and three key things will keep coming up. Make it easy to get around within the tech corridor. Make it easy for talent to move to Canada and lastly, the biggest test, is to sustain the momentum that Canadian companies need for continued success.
“We’re going to have to do something significant from a transportation perspective,” says Klugman. “We’re going to have to make it this easy for people to move around quickly within regions.”
That means better rail or even high-speed rail between Toronto and Waterloo, Ottawa and Montreal.
Norman agrees that making cities affordable is key to attracting and keeping talent. But he says Canada’s immigration policies are among its best assets right now.
“I think the current policies of letting talent come here is a huge win for us when the rest of the world is closing,” he says. In fact, he says the Google announcement may create a short-term talent shortage. But it will also make Canada an even bigger magnet for international engineers and skilled workers.
“On the medium term, it will accelerate growth of talent coming to our cities,” says Norman.
So, in a way Google‘s expansion sets the stage for the biggest test Canada’s tech sector has faced yet.
It’s built itself up to this stage. Companies are flourishing. Jobs are being added in droves and homegrown startups such as Shopify are valued at more than $73 billion. Talent is so rich even the biggest companies in the world are expanding here.
The stage is set, there’s wind in the sails, the world is watching. Now it’s up to the companies themselves to show they can push even further.
Norman and Klugman bet they would years ago. Now Google seems to be admitting Canada’s tech sector is worth the hype.
Customers cry foul as Air Canada, WestJet continue to deny certain compensation claims despite new directive – CBC News
A recent Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) decision was supposed to help clear the air on flight compensation.
However, the clarification has only ignited fury for some passengers, including Frank Michel, who have since been denied compensation — due to crew shortages.
“It’s insulting,” said Michel, of Marquis, Sask.
He and his wife, Leigh, flew with Air Canada in June. The couple’s flight from Regina to Victoria was delayed by more than five hours. Then, the second leg of their return flight was cancelled, so the couple wound up spending the night at the Vancouver airport.
“I’ve got arthritis, I’m aching and sore; I’m sleeping on a frigging concrete floor,” said Michel, who is 67.
The couple applied for compensation, which would total $2,800 if they qualified. But in late July, Air Canada rejected the Michels’ claim. In two separate emails seen by CBC News, the airline said each flight disruption was “due to crew constraints” linked to COVID-19 and was “safety-related.”
Under federal rules, airlines only have to pay compensation — up to $1,000 per passenger — if the flight disruption is within the airline’s control and not safety-related.
Michel argues Air Canada isn’t playing by the rules.
“CTA has already made it clear that crew constraints is not an acceptable excuse,” he said. “It’s not a safety issue. It’s a management issue. You have to manage your resources.”
‘This decision doesn’t seem to mean anything’
The CTA issued its clarification last month based on a case where WestJet denied a customer compensation, claiming his flight had been cancelled for safety reasons due to a crew shortage.
In its ruling, the CTA emphasized that staffing issues typically warrant compensation because, in general, they are an airline’s responsibility and can’t be categorized as a safety matter. Thus, the agency ordered WestJet to pay the passenger $1,000.
“Training and staffing are within airline control and therefore crew shortages are within airline control, unless there’s compelling evidence” to the contrary, said CTA spokesperson Tom Oommen in an interview. “It’s a high threshold.”
WATCH | Air passengers say they’ve been unfairly denied compensation:
Oommen said the CTA’s decision will help ensure airlines follow the rules. But some passengers remain skeptical.
“This decision doesn’t seem to mean anything,” said Jennifer Peach, of Langley, B.C., who, along with her husband, had booked a trip with WestJet to attend a wedding last month in St. John’s.
They almost didn’t make it. WestJet cancelled their connecting flight and Peach said the airline then offered to rebook them on a flight one day later — which would mean they’d miss the wedding.
Fortunately, Peach found a Porter Airlines flight that would get the couple to St. John’s about five hours later than originally scheduled, but still in time for the wedding. WestJet told her to book the flight and file for compensation, she said.
Peach asked WestJet for the $773 total she paid for the Porter flight, plus compensation for the couple’s delayed trip. On Aug. 2, WestJet turned down both requests.
In an email seen by CBC News, the airline stated that the flight cancellation “was due to crew member availability and was required for safety purposes.”
That didn’t sit well with Peach, especially in light of the recent CTA decision.
“I don’t know what’s going on here,” she said. “I would assume that if there’s a decision like this made by the Canadian Transportation Agency that it would be the sort of the benchmark for all of these [claims].”
Enforcement options ‘could include fines’: CTA
WestJet and Air Canada each declined to comment on individual cases, but both said they abide by federal air passenger regulations. WestJet said that safety is its top priority. Air Canada said airlines shouldn’t be penalized for cancelling flights for safety reasons.
Air passenger rights expert Ian Jack said the CTA needs to threaten airlines with harsh penalties, such as public shaming and stiff fines, if they fail to comply with compensation regulations.
“The major concern is that the regulator is not exactly striking fear into the hearts of the carriers to make them follow the rules,” said Jack, a spokesperson with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), a non-profit travel agency.
“They need to know that they might get caught, embarrassed and called to task by the regulator.”
CTA’s Oommen suggested that tough penalties may be coming for non-compliant airlines. “We are indeed looking at all the enforcement options … which could include fines.”
Meanwhile, both Michel and Peach have filed complaints with the CTA. However, they may be in for a long wait. The agency is currently dealing with a backlog of more than 15,000 complaints, Oommen said.
He said the CTA recently made changes to streamline the complaints process and is trying to hire more staff.
<a href=”https://twitter.com/AirCanada?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@AirCanada</a> how do I appeal a denied compensation request for a delayed flight? The reason for the delay was flight crew constraints …is staffing not under your control?
<a href=”https://twitter.com/WestJet?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@WestJet</a> I would expect more from your “customer focused” company.Can you please explain how our claim for compensation has been denied since it was a crew staffing issue. Do you not schedule the crews,therefore making it within your control??? <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/flightdelay?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#flightdelay</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/poorcustomerservice?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#poorcustomerservice</a>
But Jack said he’s concerned the backlog may encourage airlines to flout the rules, because any repercussions will be far down the road.
“They don’t have to pay out today, and who knows, maybe in 2025, they might have to pay money.”
Across Canada, cities struggle to respond to growing homeless encampments – CBC.ca
On a patch of green space at the edge of a Charlottetown parking lot, Steve Wotton lives in a tent with his dog, Nova. The homeless shelter where he used to stay doesn’t allow pets.
“I’ve been on the streets since two days after Christmas, but I’ve been in shelters off and on,” he said.
Wotton said shelters make him anxious, and his dog is a source of support and strength when he’s feeling unwell.
“This is in the area where I should be or I kinda need to be,” he said.
“It’s tough. Some of it can be OK, but it’s very rough.”
Across Canada, city officials are trying to figure out how to deal with the increased presence of homeless encampments.
In Vancouver, city staff began the removal of tents in the city’s Downtown Eastside earlier this week.
In Halifax, the city recently ordered people living in a west-end park to leave, and have said police could be called in to clear out those who remain.
In Montreal, several encampments have been cleared out in recent years, and the city is seeking to hire a liaison officer to help dismantle others that pop up. A city spokesperson said encampments are not a safe or sustainable solution to homelessness, and pose a safety risk, too.
Short- and long-term goals
Yet advocates such as Marie-Pier Therrien, a representative for the Old Brewery Mission shelter in Montreal, argue that simply shutting encampments down doesn’t help.
“We agree with the city that the encampments are not a long-term solution to the housing crisis right now,” Therrien said. “But we would like them to lead an effort … to provide affordable housing solutions to the people in the camps, because moving them around is not going to be a long-term solution either.”
As the former United Nations special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha has studied the issue closely. She said city governments cannot be left to solve the problem on their own.
“Encampments are unfortunately incredibly common across Canada, in big cities and small cities. And this has really increased since the pandemic,” she said.
“That’s because congregate settings like shelters were deemed unsafe at the beginning of the pandemic. And already people were not loving shelters. They are violent places; they are institutions.”
While more affordable housing should be the ultimate goal, she said, in the meantime officials should ensure people living in encampments have access to things like clean water.
“I expect city and other orders of government to ensure that when people are living in encampments, they can live as much of a dignified life as possible, but that the end goal should be figuring out how to get that population properly housed,” she said.
Councillors in Kitchener, Ont., for instance, have approved a plan to provide support to encampments while coming up with a longer-term plan.
“The way I view people living in encampments is they are human-rights holders and they’re making a claim,” Farha said.
“They’re saying, ‘Hey, I have the right to adequate housing and there is no other place for me to find that’s right to live. And so I’m going to roll out my sleeping bag or pitch my tent here because I have no other options.'”
More shelters, more housing
In Toronto, there still aren’t enough spots in shelters to accommodate those living on the streets.
On a nightly basis over the past year and a half, an average of 40 people were turned away because of a lack of beds, according to data released earlier this month.
WATCH | Former UN rapporteur says encampments highlight need for affordable housing solutions:
Doug Johnson Hatlem, a street pastor who works with people experiencing homelessness in the city, said the lack of space in shelters needs to be urgently addressed, but more housing is the only real solution.
“The only way out of this is to build good, solid, dignified social housing at scale,” he said.
Speaking outside his tent in Charlottetown, Wotton said he’s not certain where he will live when it gets colder later this year.
“This is my first time experiencing this,” he said. “I’m still learning as I go along.”
Sierra Leone: 8 killed in anti-government protests
Freetown, Sierra Leone- Eight police officers have been killed in anti-government protests that erupted on Wednesday over inflation and the rising cost of living.
According to Youth Minister Mohamed Orman Bangura, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the capital, Freetown where the protests grew violent at times.
“We are yet to know how many people were injured, but I can confirm that eight police officers were killed. Those are not protesters. There is a difference between protest and riot and acts of terrorism (sic). Protesting is different from acting as a terrorist going against the State and killing young police officers.
This was well planned, calculated and financed by members of the opposition, All People’s Congress. Members of the opposition paid young people to come to the street to take over governance.
If the protest is a result of the cost of living, why is it not happening in all the strongholds of the current government? Why is it Makeni that happens to be the headquarters town of the opposition? Why is it not a nationwide strike? Out of 16 districts, why is it only in three districts that they (the opposition) think is their stronghold,” said the Minister.
Discontent has been boiling over for a number of reasons, including a perceived lack of government support for ordinary people who are struggling.
Long-standing frustration has also been exacerbated by rising prices for basic goods in Sierra Leone, where more than half the population of around 8 million lives below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.
Earlier on Wednesday, internet observatory, NetBlocks said Sierra Leone faced a near-total internet shutdown during the protests, with national connectivity at five percent of ordinary levels.
The government has since imposed a nationwide curfew which was imposed on Wednesday in a bid to stem the violence.
“As a government, we have the responsibility to protect every citizen of Sierra Leone. What happened today was unfortunate and will be fully investigated,” said President Julius Maada Bio.
Footage circulating on social media showed crowds of demonstrators burning tires in Freetown and other groups of young men throwing rocks at security forces which have also been castigated by Vice-President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh
“These unscrupulous individuals have embarked on a violent and unauthorized protest which has led to the loss of lives of innocent Sierra Leoneans including security personnel,” said the Vice-President.
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