I flew from Japan to Toronto on March 1, finishing that journey on a puddle jumper to Ottawa. Like many Canadians, I have been dolefully wondering when I might next board an airplane.
Whenever the black curtain that now shrouds most of the world is lifted — and that may only come several months after a vaccine or a cure is found — the landscape will be much different than it was only two months ago.
Tourism was a luxury reserved for the wealthy when Britain created the modern travel industry by taking holidays on the European continent in the late 19th century. It was not until the 1960s and 1970s, with the advent of the jet airliners, that tourism to the far corners of the planet became affordable to many westerners. Canadians embraced this wonderful new world, jumping on aircraft and cruise ships to almost anywhere.
Before all others, the most crucial question is whether many Canadians will still have enough savings or even jobs that will let them dash off to Patagonia, Phnom Penh, Pangnirtung or wherever their whims used to take them.
It may be hard to comprehend for folks used to cruising in the Caribbean every winter or enjoying the good life in Europe every summer, but whenever the coronavirus pandemic ends, many of them may once again regard tourism as an extravagance that will be well beyond their means for the rest of their lives.
This will be especially true if Ottawa tries to get out from under its debt load by taking the draconian step of reducing pensions, or at least civil service and military pensions, by 20 per cent or 30 per cent. That will kill many would-be travellers’ bucket lists.
Corporations and small businesses that depend on foreign trade face a similar quandary. Most of them have their own crushing debt problems and pension liabilities. Fewer foreign customers will be able to pay for the goods and services those companies offer. It is highly debatable whether many of them still want to shell out $10,000 for a quick business trip to Vietnam when words such as Zoom have suddenly entered our lexicon to describe face-to-face video meetings with scores of people that don’t cost more than a few bucks to set up.
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Ditto for think tanks, universities and professional associations used to hosting international conferences with enough delegates to pack an NHL rink. Going forward, many conventioneers will understandably be anxious about flying to Las Vegas or Honolulu just to sit cheek-by-jowl for several days with people from everywhere.
Another factor that may dissuade some from travelling afar, or even to New York, is that their calculations about where to go will be heavily influenced by whether theatres, museums, galleries and even parks will be open. The millions of Canadians with much thinner wallets may choose to go pickerel fishing or for a cross-country bicycle ride.
The broad outlines of the challenge ahead for those who badly want to travel again can be seen in the current air travel figures. Domestic air travel is down 96 per cent in the U.S. IATA, which represents air carriers, reckoned in its latest public report a few days ago that its members expected revenue to drop by $312 billion this year.
Especially vulnerable will be my favourite train travel experience, Via Rail’s historic flagship, the Canadian, which runs from Toronto to Vancouver. That run already cost taxpayers $48.9 million in subsidies two years ago. With $394 million in overall federal subsidies in 2018, Via is likely to be one of the mendicants trying to push the airlines aside in the rush to ask Ottawa to keep them going.
How bad are things already? Sydney Airport announced on April 20 that it had borrowed A$850 million to help see it through a 97 per cent slump in traffic.
Few passengers will ever see it, but one of the few parts of the travel industry that is booming today is the obscure business of mothballing aircraft. Some 16,000 commercial airliners are idle around the world, including hundreds in Canada.
The stark gravity of the situation was revealed in Lufthansa’s shock announcement earlier this month that effective immediately, it was retiring six of its 14 Airbus 380 superjumbo jets. In doing so, it is walking away from a nearly $3-billion investment on aircraft that are, on average, less than nine years old.
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Even if we can afford to travel, shrinking airliner fleets mean fewer flights flying to fewer places. This shrinkage will have an insidious effect on places that rely heavily on tourism. Nor has anybody a clue yet how many (or few) tourist-dependent hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos and marinas will ever reopen.
Amid the gloom about the future of travel, a few outliers speak optimistically about what happens next. I don’t buy it, but Michael O’Leary, the boss of the biggest European low-cost carrier, Ryanair, is forecasting “a bumper year in terms of earnings next year” because of low oil prices and “massive discounting.”
That would be quite a comeback for O’Leary’s company. At present, 99 per cent of the Ryanair fleet is parked.
One of the few winners could be Airbus’s extraordinarily fuel-efficient A220 (formerly Bombardier’s C-series), which was designed in Canada and is made at Mirabel, north of Montreal. While many airlines have slashed or are delaying orders from Airbus and Boeing, Air France remains committed to buying 60 A220s, with the first of them to be delivered next year. Air Canada and Delta have also promised to honour their outstanding orders.
Though it sounds counter-intuitive, given that several cruise ships recently demonstrated that they were ideal breeding grounds for the coronavirus, bookings for some of these palatial floating leviathans are reported to be good for this fall and winter, albeit with steeply discounted fares.
This passenger demand may explain how the world’s largest cruise operator, Carnival Corp., which owns Princess, Holland America and other lines, has 18 new ships on order. The company was able to raise US$6 billion through a bond offering during the past few weeks, even though no cruise ships are going anywhere for several months at least.
Cruise ship bookings on the rise despite COVID-19
On the other hand, Alaska will lose revenue because fewer because few ships will be making the Inside Passage or visiting Glacier Bay this summer. This is because the West Coast cruise hubs in Seattle and Vancouver, which anticipated 250,000 cruise passengers this year, will not accept any ships until July at the earliest. Alaska had been looking forward to revenue of US$793 million this season.
Airline companies, cruise ship operations and hotels will take a long time to reconstitute themselves. Many frequent travellers will be broke or fearful of catching the expected second or third wave of COVID-19 infections. Another likely hurdle: a quagmire of newly imposed visa restrictions and other government-imposed limits or outright bans on travel.
The upshot of this is that many Canadians are likely to spend more time at their cottages or travel more within their own country for the next few years. This should be a modest boon to Canada’s shell-shocked tourism industry. It has been heavily reliant on American visitors and, more recently, on European, Japanese and Chinese visitors who may now be as leery of travel to Canada as many Canadians will be about visiting those countries. As for winter holidays, reaching Florida by car will likely cost Canadians less than it did because gas prices are much lower, though this may be offset if the loonie tumbles further and ends up only being worth, say, 60 U.S. cents.
I had planned to fly to Europe, Asia and Western Canada this spring. Those trips have been postponed indefinitely. In hindsight, I was darn lucky to get to Tokyo and Okinawa just days before the coronavirus turned global travel upside down.
Only six weeks into isolation, like most Canadians, I have a bad case of cabin fever. I want to get going again.
Matthew Fisher is an international affairs columnist and foreign correspondent who has worked abroad for 35 years. You can follow him on Twitter at @mfisheroverseas.
Meet the 'forgotten Canadians' stranded in remote corners of the world demanding help to get home – CBC.ca
An Alberta woman is scared for her life in Peru as the death toll rises and the health-care system collapses around her.
A 75-year-old pensioner from Nova Scotia is stranded alone on the top of a mountain in a tiny village in Central America, with no way out.
A Montreal woman is living in a $7-a-day hotel room in the mountains of locked-down Nepal and told the local hospital ran out of necessities to help those with COVID-19.
They are the outliers: the last 10 per cent of Canadians stranded abroad who want to come home during a deadly, worldwide pandemic. But the Canadian government may not be able to repatriate them all because of the complexity of their cases.
“It’s a possible death sentence for a lot of Canadian citizens and residents in Peru,” Ana Nehring, the Alberta woman, told CBC News from Lima. “We need to be rescued. We need to get out of here.”
Ottawa is down to its final push to retrieve Canadians, with over 40,681 already repatriated from 107 countries on 378 flights since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
But the federal government said these last cases are often the most difficult and unusual. In some countries, there aren’t enough Canadians to send an entire plane. In others, repatriation flights are barred from entering. Instead, consular services is helping some citizens hunker down until countries reopen.
But some of those stranded say they are in precarious situations and want Canada to find a way to get them home quickly.
“We are working to help as many Canadians as possible return home, but some may remain outside the country for an indeterminate period,” Angela Savard, a spokesperson with Global Affairs, said in a statement to CBC News.
Stuck in Peru: Ana Nehring, Lise Blais
Nehring flew to Peru on March 3 to rush to her mother’s side after she suffered a stroke. She’s an only child and needed to find her mother a long-term care facility to live in.
But two weeks later, Peru entered a lockdown that closed its borders to international travel. It’s been three months and Nehring is still stuck in Lima.
She says the country is struggling to control its outbreak and all she wants to do is get home to St. Albert, Alta.
According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, Peru has more than 160,000 confirmed cases, tenth-most in the world, with more than 4,500 deaths.
“We need more help,” Nehring said. “I’m scared. We should not be here. The numbers are growing very rapidly….There are a lot of people dying.”
She tried to land a spot on one of Canada’s nine repatriation flights out, but all the seats were taken. Global Affairs told CBC News that it brought more than 2,650 citizens back to Canada on those planes. But it ended the efforts in mid-April because the Peruvian government stopped allowing repatriation flights into the country.
Nehring wants the government to send a military aircraft to pick up a group of roughly 200 Canadians, according to a Facebook group’s tally, who want to leave Peru. She says the streets are filled with military and police. She’s haunted by seeing a dead body on the ground on the way to the grocery store, but can’t say for sure if it was related to COVID-19.
Lise Blais is also in Lima and worried about catching COVID-19 as the number of cases climb. She’s trying to get home to Montreal and says she’s been stuck inside the same four walls since March 16. Blais wants to get back home to her son and grandchildren.
“Life is very difficult,” said Blais. I’m really scared to death.
“It’s so stressful. I’m losing my appetite. I don’t sleep well. It’s like a permanent nightmare. Living and waiting, it’s really terrible. Enough to make stomach ulcers.”
WATCH | Lise Blais, stranded in Peru, says, ‘The waiting is killing me’
Stranded in Costa Rica: Maxine Bruce
Maxine Bruce is a 75-year-old Canadian snowbird stuck in Costa Rica. She’s been hauling her groceries two kilometres up a mountain, because she won’t get in a taxi due to the pandemic. She’s walking even further to try to scour the nearby village of Santa Maria de Dota for supplies and medications she’s run out of.
Bruce says she’s trying to get home to the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia to help her brother who has early onset dementia. But for some reason, she says, Global Affairs Canada thinks she’s in another Central American country. She says the government has been sending her a “wealth of information applicable to Panama.”
The Canadian government has been “useless,” she said.
“We’re the forgotten Canadians stranded in these places. Basically they said it was my choice to travel so it’s down to me to get myself out of this mess.”
Trying to get out of Ecuador: David Robinson
David Robinson has spent the past year living on the ocean in Manta, Ecuador, as he had a medical procedure done to his foot. Now he wants to “get the hell out of Dodge,” but said Canada’s consular services told him the only way out is by a U.S.-chartered flight. Canada warned that even the American flights were ending soon.
He’s upset he was told to contact the U.S. Embassy for help.
“It’s maddening,” he said. “It’s literally disgusting. I’ve been paying taxes since I’ve been 15 and this is what they’re doing to me now: saying ‘whatever.'”
Hunkering down in Nepal: Catherine Breton
Catherine Breton has hunkered down in a cheap hotel with a small group of German and British tourists who are also stranded. She’s in Bandipur, a small village in the mountains in Nepal about an hour walk from a main road or a 12-hour bus ride from the capital, Kathmandu.
She was on a spiritual journey to study Buddhism when the pandemic hit. Breton said she couldn’t afford $4,000 for a spot on an earlier repatriation flight, so she waited thinking there would be other options. She learned the hard way that there aren’t.
“I’m getting scared,” she said. “There’s more and more cases.”
Nepal has more than 1,500 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The Canadian government offers a $5,000 emergency loan to people stranded abroad for “life-sustaining needs.” Robinson said she’s struggled to get out of debt before and had promised herself she’d never do it again, but realizes now she has no other choice but to take the money.
The local hospital told her they do not have ventilators and have run out of supplies needed to treat people with COVID-19. She says a Facebook group she’s part of lists more than 70 Canadians in Nepal who want to travel home. Yet she’s been told by consular support in India there aren’t enough people for a repatriation flight.
“I just don’t understand that,” she said. “They have the possibility to do it; I don’t know why they don’t.”
Anti-racism protest in downtown Montreal turns violent – CBC.ca
A Montreal anti-racism protest demanding justice for a black Minnesota man who died following a police intervention last week degenerated into clashes between police and some demonstrators on Sunday night.
The march had snaked its way through downtown Montreal on Sunday afternoon without incident, but Montreal police declared the gathering illegal about three hours after it began when they say projectiles were thrown at officers who responded with pepper spray and tear gas.
Tensions flared after the formal rally had concluded and some demonstrators made their way back to the starting point, in the shadow of Montreal police headquarters downtown.
Windows were smashed, fires were set and the situation slid into a game of cat-and-mouse between pockets of protesters and police trying to disperse them.
Demonstrators had gathered to denounce racist violence and police impunity — both in the U.S. and at home in Montreal.
George Floyd died in Minneapolis on Monday after pleading for air while a white police officer pressed a knee on his neck.
His death has sparked nightly protests in major U.S. cities.
‘It keeps happening and it’s happening here’
The Montreal rally was a solidarity gathering with American anti-racism activists, but organizers say it is also an opportunity to express their own anger at the treatment of marginalized people in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada.
Some of the names invoked included names of black men killed during Montreal police interventions in recent years.
“It’s important for everyone to be here today so that we can have a lot of voices to say the George Floyd event is not a singular event,” said Marie-Livia Beauge, one of the event organizers. “It keeps happening and it’s happening here in Montreal so to be here together is to show solidarity and denounce the injustice.”
The gathering drew Montrealers of all stripes and backgrounds, holding posters with slogans. Protesters chanted “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe” — what Floyd was caught on video saying.
They took a knee in unison several times in solidarity with the movement.
But when Montreal police called on protesters to disperse, some refused.
‘If you support them, you’re against us’
Leah Blain, 20, chose to continue demonstrating and was part of a group trying to reach police headquarters when she was met with pepper spray.
“We were just standing here. We were showing our support and this is what happens. The police support a system that’s against us, so if you support them, you’re against us,” she said.
On Sunday evening, Steve Haboucha was clearing broken glass from the frame around the front window of his Koodo Mobile store on Montreal’s Ste Catherine Street. Security video from his store, he said, shows a stream of people entering the cell phone shop and leaving with accessories over a 30-minute period.
About 10 police officers were there, standing over broken glass, keeping guard outside. Haboucha said the police told him there were “hundreds” of stores that suffered the same fate along the route the protesters took.
A few kilometres west on the same downtown street, the loud pops of cracking glass echoed through the neighbourhood, preceding a group of people who turned their destruction onto seemingly random targets.
On one corner, a group used a metal construction sign and its steel stand to smash the front glass of a payday loan branch.
Smashed windows, looted stores
All along Ste Catherine, people smashed windows and looted stores, while trying to evade police.
Before chaos erupted, Vincent Mousseau, a social worker and community organizer, called out Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante, who earlier Sunday had condemned “violence, racism and systemic discrimination” in a series of tweets.
Mousseau cautioned against empty words from leaders.
“In fighting this, we need to ensure our movements are not co-opted to stifle our anger with their kind word and simultaneous inaction,” Mousseau said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers repeatedly told people to spread out, trying to find a spot where a two-metre distance could be maintained.
Despite a majority of people wearing masks and organizers squirting hand sanitizer, the numbers attending made distancing impossible.
The location adjacent to Montreal police headquarters was packed, with police closely guarding the building that houses their brass.
Doctor urges pandemic caution
Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, told Radio-Canada on Sunday evening that he recognized the importance of the cause but urged hand washing and for anyone exhibiting symptoms to let health authorities know they attended the protest.
Around the start of the demonstration, Montreal police took the unusual step of issuing a tweet saying they were dismayed by the death of George Floyd.
“Both the action taken and the inaction of the witnesses present go against the values of our organization,” the force tweeted, calling for a peaceful demonstration.
“We respect the rights and the need of everyone to speak out against this violence and will be by your side to ensure your safety,” the police said.
The Montreal rally followed one in Toronto on Saturday, which remained peaceful.
Canada approaches 91K coronavirus cases; sharp rise in daily deaths due to glitch – Globalnews.ca
Canada’s new coronavirus cases remained in the triple-digit territory for the sixth day in a row, for a total of nearly 91,000 infections.
The vast bulk of the 756 new COVID-19 cases stem from Quebec and Ontario, which collectively account for a majority of the national death toll and caseload. More than 48,000 people are considered recovered so far across Canada.
The death toll rose by 221 on Sunday — but 165 of these were fatalities that date back several days.
This is because Quebec reported a sharp rise in deaths — 202 in total — on Sunday due to a technical glitch. Only 37 of these deaths were from the last 24 hours, while the rest of the fatalities date back several days and weren’t taken into account earlier due to technical issues.
That leaves Sunday’s daily death toll, using figures from the past 24 hours, at 57 — the lowest it’s been since early April. The overall death toll stands at 7,295.
Quebec, the hardest-hit province in Canada, saw 408 new cases, bringing its total to more than 51,000 cases, including more than 16,000 recoveries. More than 4,600 people have died.
Ontario announced 326 new cases of COVID-19, and 19 new deaths, bringing figures to more than 27,800 cases and 2,266 deaths. More than 21,000 cases are deemed recoveries.
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Alberta reported 18 new cases and no new deaths. The province has now seen more than 7,000 cases of COVID-19, with 89 per cent of them recovered so far. The death toll stands at 143. Stage 1 of the provincial reopening plan launches Monday. Anyone in Alberta can get tested for COVID-19, symptoms or not.
New Brunswick reported three new cases on Sunday. All are at a long-term care home, in people aged between 80 and 89.
The province was almost clear of all its COVID-19 cases until a new cluster appeared in Campbellton region, after a doctor who visited Quebec earlier in May did not self-isolate upon return. The community now has 12 active cases, while 120 prior cases throughout the province are considered resolved.
Saskatchewan reported one new case, for a total of 646 cases, and one new death, raising its death toll to 11. More than 580 people have recovered.
No new cases
Nova Scotia reported no new cases and deaths, as did Newfoundland and Labrador. There are 1,056 cases in Nova Scotia, including 15 active cases. Sixty people have died and the majority of fatalities are connected to one long-term care home in Halifax.
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Newfoundland and Labrador remains at 261 cases and three deaths, with 255 recovered and three active.
Manitoba also reported no new cases. The province has 10 active cases left, with nobody hospitalized.
All cases resolved
Prince Edward Island’s 27 cases of COVID-19 have been resolved for some time. The Northwest Territories and the Yukon also have seen all their cases resolved.
Nunavut remains the only region in Canada that has not seen a confirmed case of COVID-19.
British Columbia had no figures to report on Sunday.
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 6.1 million people and killed more than 371,000. The U.S. accounts for the most number of cases (nearly 1.8 million) and the highest death toll (more than 104,000).
— With files by The Canadian Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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