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Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre to skip Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner

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Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre to skip Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner

OTTAWA — Liberals, New Democrats, Conservatives and a steady stream of journalists walk into a bar.

Pierre Poilievre doesn’t.

The Conservative leader has declined an invitation to attend the parliamentary Press Gallery dinner on Saturday night, an event that was on a three-year hiatus due to COVID-19.

It’s tradition for political party leaders of all stripes to attend the event and deliver a speech, often filling it with jokes at their own expense and getting a few digs in at their critics, too.

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A spokesman for Poilievre simply said he’s “not coming” to the gala that will take place at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., and did not give a reason why.

His former boss and Canada’s last Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, would also skip the event when he was in power but did attend when he was Opposition leader and showed off his funny bone.

Harper got in on the self-deprecating humour at his first event as leader in 2004.

“Look, no, I’ll admit I have my flaws,” he said. “Even my friends tell me that I can be dismissive and insulting, but what the hell do those idiots know, anyway?”

Rona Ambrose, who served as the party’s interim leader after Harper, revived the tradition of Tory leaders attending.

In 2016, she took aim at the former prime minister in a bit about the party adopting a new tagline. “The Conservative Party of Canada: The bad man’s gone away.”

And Andrew Scheer, who led the party from 2017 to 2020, also took part in the tradition, using his first appearance after winning the leadership to rib opponents from the crowded race.

“When Kellie Leitch found out I was coming to wine and dine with a bunch of media elites, I had to spend a lot of time on the phone,” he said. Likewise when “Brad Trost and some of the social conservatives in the caucus learned that there may be dancing later.”

After decrying suggestions that “I’m beholden to a certain group within the Conservative family,” he pulled out a 500 ml carton of two per cent milk and took a swig — a nod to his support for supply management in the dairy sector.

Scheer later cracked jokes about his baby-faced appearance, telling Trudeau at the 2019 gala that painting him as “scary” was likely to fail. “It’s like trying to waterboard the Pillsbury Doughboy.”

Scheer, who now serves as Poilievre’s House leader, is not expected to be at the event this year, with a staffer saying last month that he has another commitment in his riding.

Ontario MP Erin O’Toole did not get a chance to test out any comedic bits when he was elected leader in 2020, because the event wasn’t staged due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Poilievre’s decision to skip it likely won’t come as much of a surprise, given his vocal opposition to mainstream media and his choice to avoid reporters on Parliament Hill since being elected leader.

Since his victory on Sept. 10, Poilievre has held only one news conference, where he got into a heated exchange with a reporter after his staff said he would make only a statement and take no questions. He ultimately took two.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2022.

 

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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U.K. egg shortage has stores placing purchase limits. Is Canada next? – National | Globalnews.ca – Global News

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An egg shortage in the United Kingdom has Britons scrambling to find the beloved food staple on store shelves.

The U.K. is dealing with a massive outbreak of avian flu and is seeing many cases on commercial farms, impacting egg supply and also raising concerns of chicken and turkey shortages for the holidays.

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Canada is also dealing with bird flu cases, so are eggs at risk of running short?

Read more:

Bird flu raising prices for eggs worldwide as Ukraine war disrupts shipments

“I don’t think Canadians should be concerned. I think there will be plenty of eggs for the holidays,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.

“The big variable is the avian flu. We don’t know exactly how the flu will impact barns across the country.”

What’s going on in Britain?

Eggs have been hard to find as of late at British supermarkets, with industry warnings that the shortages may last beyond Christmas, the BBC and The Guardian recently reported.

As a result, grocers have imposed limits on how many eggs customers can buy to preserve inventory.

The British Retail Consortium told BBC News there were several factors influencing the egg market, including the avian flu, supply issues and production costs.

About 2.3 million birds have died or been culled since October, the BBC reported on Dec. 1, which could impact egg production if chickens are being culled too. The current bird flu outbreak is the largest on record in the U.K.


Click to play video: 'B.C. poultry and egg farmers increase safety measures to protect their birds from avian flu'

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B.C. poultry and egg farmers increase safety measures to protect their birds from avian flu


Avian influenza, sometimes called bird flu, is a virus that infects birds. Outbreaks in commercial bird facilities most often occur when migratory birds carrying the disease come into contact with poultry.

The British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA) told The Guardian on Nov. 17 that egg shortages are also due to retailers not paying a “sustainable price” to farmers. Their hen feed costs have shot up 50 per cent since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is a major global grain producer, and fuel bills have jumped 40 per cent, the outlet reported.

A BFREPA spokesperson told Reuters on Nov. 15 the industry is down 743,350 layers this season, as “a huge number of them are losing a significant amount of money and can’t afford to produce eggs anymore.”


Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: Festive foods more expensive this holiday season'

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Consumer Matters: Festive foods more expensive this holiday season


A BFREPA spokesperson told The Guardian it was hard to predict how long the shortages would carry on, but they see them continuing into the Christmas holidays. The BBC reported that British Environment Secretary Therese Coffey said the government is confident the nation will get through the difficulty in the short term, as there are nearly “40 million egg-laying hens available.”

“There’s a lot of feuding going on right now in the U.K. In addition to that, you have the avian flu also impacting production and farms over in the U.K., which is actually the same thing in Canada. But the regime in the U.K. is much different,” Charlebois said.

“All farmers are left to figure things out on their own, whereas in Canada with our supply management regime, farmers are guaranteed a price no matter what. If the cost of production goes up, they’re properly compensated as a result. The system is very different, and as a country, we do have some autonomy when it comes to egg production.”

Is there an egg shortage in Canada?

Currently, there is no egg shortage in Canada, said Tim Lambert, CEO of Egg Farmers of Canada, in an emailed statement to Global News.

Canadian egg production happens across the country, allowing farmers to work together to maintain the domestic supply of eggs, he said.

If there is an avian flu outbreak impacting one region, egg production can be increased in other provinces to keep supply balanced and make up potential gaps.

Furthermore, he said, as Canadian eggs are typically produced on small family farms, there’s less of an impact of avian flu on the overall supply of eggs.


Click to play video: 'Russian war in Ukraine will affect grocery shelves'

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Russian war in Ukraine will affect grocery shelves


“However, it is important to note that avian influenza currently affects less than two per cent of the Canadian egg supply,” he said.

“For these reasons and more, there is no egg shortage in Canada, and we continue to work with our supply chain to navigate the natural demand cycle for eggs, which typically peaks during the November and December months of the year.”

Read more:

Avian flu puts pressure on producers, consumers

The spread of avian flu has “been a concern,” this year, Charlebois said. Specifically in British Columbia, farmers in the Fraser Valley have been facing “intense disease pressure” from the avian flu in commercial farms that the agriculture minister says is concerning.

Avian flu outbreaks in Canada have had enormous economic tolls in the past. In 2004, 19 million poultry were culled as a result of outbreaks in B.C.


Click to play video: 'Avian flu outbreak taking heavy toll on B.C. farmers'

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Avian flu outbreak taking heavy toll on B.C. farmers


As of Nov. 30, 795,700 birds have been impacted by the avian flu, federal government data shows. In Canada, 4,215,100 birds have been impacted to date.

The avian flu and higher feed costs for farmers are being reflected in the price of products at Canadian grocery stores, Charlebois said.

“All of that inventory is not reaching the market, so obviously you’re seeing poultry prices go up and egg prices also are going up,” Charlebois said.

“They’ve increased by 15 or 16 per cent so far this year, and we’re expecting more increases down the road. But in terms of access, I don’t think Canadians should be concerned. They’ll be plenty of eggs at the store waiting for them.”

— with files from The Canadian Press

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China's COVID rules fuelling wave of immigration to Canada – CTV News

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VANCOUVER –

China’s zero-COVID lockdowns have been linked to a rare wave of protests across the country in recent weeks, and immigration industry experts say the strict pandemic rules are also fuelling a surge in requests to live in Canada.

Immigration from China has bounced back from pandemic lulls to hit a new peak, according to Canadian government statistics, and immigration consultants report an ongoing surge of inquiries.

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Vancouver immigration lawyer Ryan Rosenberg, co-founder and partner at Larlee Rosenberg, said COVID-19 restrictions have been a new motivator for potential Chinese immigrants.

“I think that what we are seeing is that COVID lockdowns really shocked people and it caused people to think that maybe China is not a good fit for themselves and for their families.”

Rosenberg, who has been in the industry for more than 20 years, said the traditional driving forces for Chinese clients considering Canada were better education for their children, cleaner air and a healthier lifestyle.

Permanent resident admissions from China hit 9,925 in the July-to-September quarter, online statistics by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada show.

That is more than triple the pandemic low of 2,980 in the same quarter of 2020, and is also up 15 per cent from 8,690 recorded in the third quarter of 2019, before the pandemic hit.

Quarterly admissions from China are now higher than at any point since 2015, as far back as the online statistics go. A spokesperson for Immigration Canada was not available to confirm if immigration rates had been higher before 2015.

Politics is also a factor, Rosenberg said, citing the consolidation of power with President Xi Jinping, who was recently confirmed for a precedent-breaking third term.

“(The) latest extension of Xi’s rule in China has also scared certain people, mostly business owners … and they are wanting to look at Canada as an option for themselves and their family,” said Rosenberg.

“There is a strong vibe that we are picking up on people wanting to get out for those reasons more than anything.”

Tiffany, a Richmond, B.C., immigration consultant who only wanted her first name used for fear of reprisals against her family from China, said many of her clients say China’s zero-COVID strategy made them feel “their freedom and liberties have been stripped away.”

“Many could sense the pressure that (Chinese) society is shifting, from once being a bit open and relaxed to being strict, prompting them to think of escaping to other countries,” the consultant said in an interview in Mandarin.

Immigration consultant Ken Tin Lok Wong said his firm has also seen an increase in family reunion applications.

“Because of COVID-19, many decided to come here to visit their family members in Canada,” Wong said in an interview in Mandarin.

“After spending some time here, they realized that although they probably could make more money in their hometowns (in China), being close to family members is more important than anything in life.”

Rosenberg said the subject of immigration has become so sensitive that his clients in China are reluctant to discuss matters over electronic communication, fearing they might be monitored by the Chinese government.

“It’s coming to the point that the concern is getting in the way of people being able to have meaningful conversations about this in China, and that can somehow limit our ability to do really good work for them,” said Rosenberg.

China’s embassy in Ottawa did not respond to a request for comment.

The desire to leave China during the pandemic, combined with the caution of speaking about it openly, has sparked a coded term in Chinese online discussions: “run xue,” or run philosophy.

The bilingual term refers to studying ways to get out of China, and is widely used on Chinese-language websites and chat rooms.

A recent immigrant who moved from Beijing to Vancouver three years ago said he made his “run” for political reasons. He too asked not to be identified out of fear of reprisals from the Chinese government.

The engineer, who is in his late 30s, said he went on multiple trips to Taiwan after the island opened its doors to Chinese tourists in 2008.

“I remember, I stopped by at Freedom Square, a public plaza in Taipei, and saw some people running around carefree. Some were doing music rehearsals and others were even waving placards to express their political opinions,” he said.

“I didn’t see any police presence at the square and that was the awakening moment for me. I thought to myself: ‘Oh, I actually could live my life this way.”‘

He said he was now content with his life in Vancouver, despite feeling lonely during holidays and having to work multiple jobs to make a living.

Rosenberg said young immigrants with lots of work years ahead of them were favoured for their ability to contribute to the Canadian economy in a “meaningful and direct way.”

“So, the bias is towards people who are a bit younger, highly educated, and can speak English or French, and then having experience in Canada, (rather) than experience earned outside of Canada,” said Rosenberg.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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Afghan refugees: Government delays increasing financial pressure – CTV News

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Refugee advocates are raising concerns that Afghan refugees granted asylum in Canada are being burdened by escalating costs stemming from the government’s delay in processing their claims.

Before they board their flight to Canada, all refugees are required to sign a loan agreement to pay back the cost of their transportation and pre-arrival expenses which can include hotel stays.

Some Afghans identified by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as eligible for resettlement have been waiting months for exit permits while living in hotels arranged by the government. The hotel bills can add thousands of dollars to their debt.

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The Canadian Council for Refugees says Afghans are being forced to pay for an inefficient bureaucracy.

“It seems like the Canadian government is taking advantage of the vulnerability of people,” says Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council of Refugees. Hotel bills can add thousands of dollars to their government debt.

Dench says refugees have no choice but to accept a “legally dubious” contract that doesn’t stipulate a precise loan amount.

“If they want a permanent home they have to sign on to whatever the terms of the agreement are. There’s no negotiation room, so people are forced into this situation.”

LONG WAITS AND BIG BILLS

Because Canada doesn’t recognize the Taliban government Afghans must get to a third country with consular support to complete their refugee applications. Many flee to neighboring Pakistan where Canada has a High Commission in the capital of Islamabad.

Nearly all Afghan refugees deemed eligible for resettlement are placed in the care of the International Organization for Migration while they are overseas.

The IOM organizes both charter and commercial flights to Canada and coordinates hotel stays for refugees as they wait for their exit permits. IOM doesn’t book flights until after IRCC has completed security and medical checks of its applicants. The organization bills the Canadian government approximately $150 per day to house and provide three meals a day for one family.

Of the 25,400 Afghans who have arrived in Canada since August 2021, IOM spokesperson Paul Dillon told CTV News in an emailed statement Friday the organizations has arranged travel for more than 22,000 of those refugees.

The claims of another 15,000 Afghans Canada committed to accepting after the Taliban took over the country have been delayed.

Irfanullah Noori, 28 and his family of five stepped off a plane at Pearson International Airport less than two months ago at the end of October. Before the Taliban took over his homeland in Noori worked as a logistics coordinator at the Kabul International Airport. He qualified for asylum because his brother served as an interpreter for Canadian soldiers.

Before being issued travel documents to Canada, Nouri, his wife and their three children, all under the age of five – stayed in an Islamabad hotel arranged by IOM for three months.

Irfanullah Noori poses with his youngest daughter on October 25, 2022 at the Pakistan International Airport before he boarded plane bound for Canada.

Before boarding his flight he signed a loan agreement. Nouri says IOM staff told him he would need to repay hotel expenses that added up to more than $13,000. That amount does not factor in the cost of flights for his family that he will also have to repay.

MISLEADING COSTS

IRCC says 96 per cent of refugees are able to pay back the loans. Monthly payments on the interest free loans are scheduled to begin one year after refugees arrive in Canada and costs can be spread out over nine years.

The federal government puts a cap of $15,000 on each loan per family, but the Canadian Council for Refugees says this is a misleading number.

Refugee families who have older dependents may have to pay back more than the cap. That’s because dependents over the age of 22 years old, can be considered a separate family unit and required to take on a new loan. Dench says this policy puts refugees in a precarious economic position. She’s seen families fight over finances and hopes and dreams put on hold.

“You have young people who should normally be going to university and pursuing their education but they feel that they’re morally obliged to get down to work, even at a minimum wage job in order to pay off the family debt,” said Dench. She argues the Canadian government should stop requiring refugees to repay the costs of getting them to safety, no matter where they come from.

SIMILAR CLAIMS, DIFFERENT TIME FRAMES

Since the fall of Kabul in August 2021, the Veterans Transition Network has helped raise funds to get interpreters and others out of Afghanistan. Oliver Thorne, VTN’s executive director says he’s frustrated that there are huge variations how long it takes for claims to be approved between applicants with similar profiles

“Some migrants are left in the dark. They don’t know why it’s taking them an additional two, four or six months compared to another interpreter who worked with the Canadian armed forces.” Thorne says IRCC needs to hire and train more staff to speed up the processing of claims.

He’s also calling for the removal of loan requirements, especially for Afghans who assisted the Canadian armed forces.

“They protected our men and women in uniform at great risk to themselves and their families. And secondly, these are going to be Canadians. They’re going to live here in our society down the street from us, and we have nothing to gain by making their transition more difficult,” Thorne said in an interview from Vancouver.

NO DEBT RELIEF

CTV News asked the Immigration Minister if it was fair that the Canadian government was burdening Afghans with additional costs due to the government backlog.

On Friday, Sean Fraser blamed a complicated process, but acknowledged that some refugees had been stuck “for a significant period of time.’ But the minister offered few solutions other than a vague reassurance that his department was “working with Pakistani officials to make sure we’re facilitating the smooth transportation of people to Canada.”

Meanwhile Noori is struggling to make ends meet in his new Ontario home, despite finding a job a few weeks ago at the General Motors plant in Oshawa.

Hired as a data-entry clerk, Noori earns $19/hour and is trying to pick up extra shifts on the weekend so he can make his $2,000 monthly rent on a one bedroom apartment.

Even though he won’t have to start paying back his refugee loan until next year, he’s daunted by the impending bill.

“It’s expensive (here.) I work 8 hours a day and six days a week. It will be very hard for me to pay back.”

After surviving the Taliban, Noori now faces subsistence in Canada.

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