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The NHL plans to punish unvaccinated players more harshly if they test positive for COVID-19 this season.
Teams can suspend unvaccinated players without pay if they cannot participate in hockey activities. A person with knowledge of the new rules confirmed them to The Associated Press on Friday.
If those who are fully vaccinated have a positive COVID-19 test, it will be treated as a hockey injury and they’ll still be paid.
Coaches and other team staff who closely interact with players must be fully vaccinated.
Unvaccinated players will have their movements restricted when on the road.
This summer, league officials estimated close to 90 per cent of players would be fully vaccinated before training camps begin later this month.
Also Friday, the NHL announced it reached an agreement with the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation to participate at the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.
What’s happening across Canada
- Nunavut reports new infection in territory for 1st time since June.
What’s happening around the world
As of Friday, more than 219 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.5 million.
In Asia, South Korea will extend coronavirus restrictions in the greater Seoul area for at least another month as the nation grapples with its worst surge a few weeks before its biggest holiday of the year.
In Africa, South Africa’s Health Minister Joe Phaahla says the government will let businesses decide whether to make vaccinations mandatory for employees and clients.
In the Americas, U.S. employers added just 235,000 jobs in August, a modest gain after two months of robust hiring at a time when the delta variant’s spread has discouraged some people from flying, shopping and eating out.
In Europe, Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke says residents in nursing homes will get a third shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, starting next week.
Controversial question in English debate may have galvanized Bloc voters – CBC.ca
At a bowling alley in Montreal’s east end on a weekday afternoon, Réal Desrochers is playing in his weekly league and also considering his choices in next week’s federal election.
Desrochers had been planning to vote Liberal, but a key moment in last Thursday’s English-language leaders’ debate galvanized identity sentiments in Quebec and spurred him to change his mind and choose the Bloc Québécois led by Yves-François Blanchet.
“For me, it’s because the Bloc will balance the situation in Ottawa,” Desrochers said. “I know he won’t form a government, but he will defend Quebec [in Parliament].”
Desrochers called the moment “a direct attack on Quebec, and I don’t like it.”
Last Thursday, at the beginning of the English leaders’ debate, moderator Shachi Kurl asked Blanchet why he supported bills 21 and 96 — respectively, Quebec’s secularism law and its proposed new law to protect the French language.
“You denied that Quebec has problems with racism yet you defend legislation such as bills 96 and 21, which marginalize religious minorities, anglophones and allophones,” asked Kurl.
“Quebec is recognized as a distinct society, but for those outside the province, please help them understand why your party also supports these discriminatory laws.”
Blanchet shot back, saying, “The question seems to imply the answer you want.”
“Those laws are not about discrimination. They are about the values of Quebec,” he said.
WATCH | Quebec premier criticizes debate question on secularism law:
The exchange had the effect of reviving an old wound, leaving Quebecers feeling disrespected and misunderstood by the rest of Canada, according to several experts interviewed by CBC.
It created a situation in which a debate that is typically almost ignored in Quebec may have changed the game for the federal election on the ground.
A bounce for the Bloc
The Bloc Québécois has risen from its slump in the polls back to a level of popularity similar to what it enjoyed during the 2019 election, in which it experienced a dramatic comeback, winning 32 seats after being reduced to 10 in the previous election.
According to a Léger poll published earlier this week, the party went from 27 per cent to 30 per cent of voter support in the province after the English debate.
“It ignited Quebec’s identity sentiments,” said Guy Lachapelle, a political science professor at Concordia University in Montreal.
“Quebecers are sick of Quebec-bashing in general.… I think there is a misunderstanding of the major issues and debates in Quebec.”
WATCH | Quebec columnists explain why the English debate angered some Quebecers:
Lachapelle doubts the increase in Bloc support will make a huge difference in which party ends up forming a government, though it minimizes the Liberals’ and Conservatives’ already slim chances of forming a majority and reduces the NDP’s chances of making gains in the province to almost nil.
For Christian Bourque, executive vice-president at Léger, though, that small bounce — accompanied by the Liberals surpassing the Conservatives in the polls this week despite an endorsement of Erin O’Toole by Premier François Legault — could lead to surprises Monday night.
“We’re all in these sort of dominoes because the race is so tight,” Bourque said.
There are about 15 three-way races between the Bloc, Liberals and Conservatives, he said.
“Since 2011, Quebec is, around Canada, probably the region where we have the most strategic voters, who will change alliance depending on how they feel the race is going,” Bourque said.
Lise Thériault says she has voted for the NDP since the so-called orange wave in 2011, but this time, she went to an advance poll to vote for the Bloc the day after the English debate.
“Telling me, at 70 years old, that I’m a racist because I want to be proud of my French language? Non, ça marche pas ça. It doesn’t work,” Thériault said, switching easily between English and French.
“I was insulted, and Monsieur Blanchet did a good job. I’m behind him 100 per cent.”
Lachapelle says many Quebecers had a similar reaction. He, too, thinks English-speaking Canadians are misinformed about the nuances of Quebec issues.
“We typically have a pretty good idea of what’s happening in other provinces in Quebec, but the reverse is not always true,” he said.
Thériault lives in the Montreal riding of Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie, the NDP’s last seat in the province, held by incumbent Alexandre Boulerice for the past 10 years. She said that this year, she was proud to vote for the Bloc’s 21-year-old candidate, Shophika Vaithyanathasarma.
In an interview with CBC this week, Vaithyanathasarma said her own feelings about Bill 21 are complicated.
She supports the bill but is concerned that there is not enough diversity of candidates and politicians who are part of the conversation about it.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m involving myself in politics: none of the people who are talking about the bill are racialized,” Vaithyanathasarma said. “I seriously think we have to listen to the citizens that are concerned.”
Vaithyanathasarma, whose parents immigrated from Sri Lanka, says minorities should not be excluded from the discussion.
“That is one of the biggest mistakes we could make,” she said, smiling.
Mireille Paquet, who holds the research chair on the politics of immigration at Concordia University, told As It Happens the question served Blanchet because “it allowed for Blanchet to speak as if he was representing all of Quebecers, and as if Quebecers were all united around these pieces of legislation.”
Premier Legault’s controversial gambit
The conversation about the debate has overshadowed another significant development in the federal race in the province.
Hours before the English debate, Legault took a public stance against Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, saying Quebecers should “beware of three parties: the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Green Party.”
Legault was irked by those parties’ intentions to intervene in health-care matters, which are under provincial jurisdiction, and said, “For the Quebec nation, Mr. O’Toole’s approach is a good one.”
WATCH | Liberals react to Legault’s endorsement of O’Toole:
But Lachapelle, the Concordia professor, says Legault’s endorsement could backfire. Many Quebecers have grumbled about being told who to vote for. The Conservatives have lost some ground in Quebec since the endorsement and are now polling at 18.4 per cent, according to 338Canada founder Philippe Fournier.
The voters of Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec party are generally split between voting Bloc, Liberal and Conservative at the federal level. Legault’s gamble may have alienated a good portion of them, Lachappelle said.
“Legault risks losing a certain amount of his base, especially if the Conservatives win and don’t deliver [on their promises to Quebec].”
Still, as the dust settles following the debate and its controversy, the polls suggest that Quebecers may end up voting along the same lines as they did in 2019.
“I’m under the impression we’re going to have a similar result as the last election,” he said.
Summer travel surge has WestJet and Air Canada asking for volunteer help – CBC.ca
A surge in summer travel across the country has forced Canada’s two biggest airlines to ask staff to help volunteer at airports to overcome staffing challenges — a move that is creating pushback from unions.
In an email to all employees, WestJet described how the rapid growth in passenger numbers is causing operational problems at several airports, including its flagship airport in Calgary.
The “growing pains of recovery requires all-hands-on-deck,” read the message, which included an open call for any staff members to sign up to volunteer to help guests requiring wheelchair assistance at the Calgary International Airport.
Meanwhile, Air Canada has needed extra personnel at Toronto’s Pearson airport since “airport partners are stretched beyond their capacity, which led to significant flight cancellations and missed connections,” read an internal memo.
In late August and early September, air passenger traffic reached its highest point since the pandemic began. The increase in business is critical to the aviation industry, which was devastated early on in the crisis as many countries restricted international travel.
The industry is not immune to the staffing challenges faced by many sectors as lockdowns started to lift; airlines continue to cope with changing government restrictions, while also following a variety of COVID-19 protocols at domestic and international airports.
At Toronto’s Pearson, the international arrival process can take up to three hours, as passengers are screened by Canada Border Services Agency and Public Health Agency of Canada agents, collect bags and possibly take a COVID-19 test.
“As the technology for sharing and displaying vaccine documents improves, passengers become more comfortable with the new process and vaccine-driven changes in border protections take effect, we hope to see further improvement in wait-time conditions in the terminals,” a Pearson spokesperson said in an email statement, which highlighted other steps to reduce delays.
But several unions have advised their members to avoid volunteering for a variety of reasons.
CUPE, which represents flight attendants at WestJet, declined to comment. However, in a letter, it told members that “the company is imploring you to provide free, volunteer and zero-cost labour. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.”
The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents WestJet’s pilots, also declined to comment. But in a message to members, it highlighted how “if you are injured doing this work, you may not be covered by our disability insurer.”
Unifor, which represents customer service agents at both of Canada’s major airlines, said its members were upset about the call for volunteers and the union wasn’t happy that there wasn’t any advanced warning or conservation.
“Take a group of workers that is already very stressed by the kind of operation that’s going on, the quantity of passengers, the amount of extra processes that are in place because of COVID in order to travel — and then adding these pieces on is not helpful,” said Leslie Dias, Unifor’s director of airlines.
During the pandemic, WestJet decided to outsource the work of guest-service agents, who would help passengers that require wheelchairs, assist with check-in kiosks and co-ordinate lineups.
But the contractor is struggling to provide enough workers, said Dias, and that’s why there was a call for volunteers.
After flying more than 700 flights daily in 2019, WestJet flew as few as 30 some days during the pandemic. Currently, there are more than 400 flights each day.
“WestJet, as is the case across Canada and across many industries, faces continued issues due to labour hiring challenges as a result of COVID-19,” said spokesperson Morgan Bell in an emailed statement.
“As WestJet looks ahead to recovery, we continue to work toward actively recalling and hiring company-wide, with the current expectation we will reach 9,000 fully trained WestJetters by the end of the year, which is more than twice as many WestJetters as we had at our lowest point in the pandemic some five months ago,” she said.
Air Canada said it only asked salaried management to help volunteer at Pearson airport.
Unifor said the airline was short of workers because the company didn’t have enough training capacity to accommodate recalled employees and couldn’t arrange restricted-area passes on time.
Thousands of airline workers lost their jobs, were furloughed or faced wage reductions last year, although the carriers are bringing back workers as travel activity increases.
At WestJet, its customer service agents have been recalled, according to Unifor. Many employees in other positions, though, remain out of work, including about 500 furloughed pilots.
Air Canada said it has been continually recalling employees since last spring, including more than 5,000 in July and August.
Asking for volunteers is an “unusual” occurrence in the industry, said Rick Erickson, an independent airline analyst based in Calgary. But he said it’s not surprising since cutting a workforce is much easier than building it back up.
Airlines have to retrain staff, secure valid certification and security passes, and find new hires as well.
Erickson said he even spotted WestJet CEO Ed Sims helping at the check-in counter in Calgary in recent weeks, as passenger activity was at its peak so far this year.
“This has been the most challenging time, honestly, in civil aviation history; we’ve never, ever seen anything approaching 90 per cent of your revenues drying up,” said Erickson, noting that airlines still have to watch their finances closely.
Asking employees to volunteer isn’t illegal, but it does raise some questions, said Sarah Coderre, a labour lawyer with Bow River Law LLP in Calgary.
“Whether or not it’s fair, and the sort of position it puts the employees in, if they choose not to volunteer, that would be concerning for me from a legal standpoint,” said Coderre.
Air Canada is currently operating at about 35 to 40 per cent of its 2019 flying capacity, but said one bright spot on the horizon is bookings for winter getaways toward the end of this year and the beginning of 2022.
“When looking to the sun leisure markets, we are very optimistic about our recovery,” a spokesperson said by email. “We are currently observing demand growth that is above 2019 levels.”
‘Getting dangerous’: Calls grow for federal action amid Canada’s nurse shortage – Global News
Two decades into a career she once loved, Toronto emergency room nurse Nancy Halupa says she is almost ready to throw in the towel.
“I don’t think I can do a fourth wave with this kind of staffing,” she told Global News.
“It’s not good for my mental health. It’s not good for my family. It’s not a workable situation anymore.”
Across the country, hospital staff are leaving their jobs at an alarming rate. And that’s prompting experts and health-care workers to call for more action from the federal government.
Nearly one in five job vacancies in Canada is in health care and social assistance, according to Statistics Canada. In early 2021, those sectors experienced the largest losses year-over-year compared to all other sectors.
Weekly overtime increased, too, 78 per cent on average from May 2019 to May 2020, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) said, using data from StatCan.
According to the CFNU, that number jumps to 137 per cent in Quebec and Ontario.
Facing COVID-19 staffing crunch, hospitals offer cash bonuses to new nurses
In Canada’s largest province of Ontario alone, the president of the CFNU told Global News it estimates there are more than 16,000 vacancies.
For those, like Halupa, who haven’t quit, the workload, she said, is crushing.
“Things need to change. It is getting dangerous out there,” said Halupa.
“I’ve never gone to work with this much anxiety or fear on what I’m going to see or what we’re going to have to deal with or how short-staffed we are.”
Halupa said not all the blame can be put on COVID-19. Recruitment, retirements and pay, she said, have also played a role in pushing people out of the profession.
At a recent rally in Toronto, medical professionals condemned the Doug Ford government for Bill 124.
The legislation was introduced pre-pandemic in 2019 and caps certain public sector wages, such as nurses’, at a one per cent annual increase.
For registered nurse Leah Waxman, that meant 47 cents more per hour for her last raise, a number that doesn’t make her want to stay in her role.
“Something acute needs to happen to make a drastic change and prevent our health-care (system) from collapsing … because it is,” she said.
Richard Mullin, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Treasury Board, told Global News in a statement that “it is inaccurate to suggest that Bill 124 caps wages at one per cent annually.”
“Ontario’s public sector employees will still be able to receive salary increases for seniority, performance, or increased qualifications as they do currently,” Mullin explained.
Labour expert Rafael Gomez called the legislation “suppressive.”
“Health-care spending now is the largest ticket item of any government. So I understand the macro priorities,” said Gomez, the director of the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources. “But health-care is a micro event. When you’re in a hospital and you need help and you want a nurse to be there, that’s affecting you personally. And if there are policies that are hampering that, I think the government is sort of short-sighted.”
A Canadian problem
In July, Alberta Health Services confirmed it had only about 18 treatment beds available at one of its busiest hospitals, the Royal Alexandra, “due to short-term staffing coverage issues.”
Alberta Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said bed closures due to staffing pressures aren’t isolated.
“This has led to bed closures and cancelled surgeries and repeated emergency room closures in the communities of Edson, St. Paul, Boyle, Elk Point, Galahad, Westlock, Fairview, Rocky Mountain House, Cold Lake, Lac La Biche, High Prairie, Slave Lake, Wainwright, Rimbey and Lacombe.”
Since then, the United Nurses of Alberta has said the province has been hiring contract nurses to address severe staffing shortages in hospitals there.
Meantime, in Kamloops, B.C., the shortages have become deadly. There, a 70-year-old woman died in an emergency department waiting room while seeking treatment last week.
“The government has let the situation at the hospital’s emergency department become dire — we’ve heard reports that some shifts have only three nurses trying to keep up with a workload usually handled by 13 people,” Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone said Monday.
Cheryl Cusack of the Association of Regulated Nurses of Manitoba said there, nurses are struggling with depression and other mental health issues, including trauma, as a result of their efforts to save coronavirus patients.
And in Nova Scotia, what was once a seven per cent vacancy rate has climbed to 20 per cent, according to the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
“We’ve had 34 people leave the Halifax Infirmary emergency department in the past two-and-a-half to three months,” said the province’s General Employees’ Union president Jason MacLean. “Six of them didn’t even have other jobs. So what we need to do is find out why they are leaving, which I believe we are getting to, but also people need to be incentivized to stay there.”
Experts call for federal leadership
The president of CFNU, Linda Silas, told Global News Ottawa needs to “show leadership.”
“We need commitment from the federal government to create a health-care workforce agency,” Silas said. “The federal government will have an agency to look at how many nurses we need in five years. What do we need to do today to keep what we have and plan better with the provinces and territories?”
When asked if it would consider any of these measures, in an email to Global News, Health Canada spokesperson Mark Johnson wrote: “the responsibility for matters related to the administration and delivery of health services, including health workforce planning and management, falls within provinces and territories jurisdiction.”
It’s not the first time health-care experts have asked for the Canadian government to create national standards or regulations for nurses.
Over the last year, seniors’ advocates have been pleading for national standards in nursing homes. And while Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made the promise last fall, his government still hasn’t put anything into action.
Colleen MacPherson, a critical care nurse in Toronto, is upset the provinces and the federal government haven’t made significant steps to fix the growing problem.
“Look what happened in long-term care. The nurses were working without protection. They were understaffed,” she told Global News.
And, she said, hospitals aren’t immune.
“People are at risk. We have no staff. Nurses didn’t get any vacation this year. Wages are stuck.”
Now, MacPherson and others worry an election has created more uncertainty and set back any plans for a solution.
During the 2021 federal election campaign, Trudeau has promised that a re-elected Liberal government will give $10 billion to help provinces clear their backlogs and pandemic wait-lists. It plans to help provinces hire 7,500 nurses, nurse practitioners and family doctors.
The Conservatives, meanwhile, have vowed to meet with premiers to make a new health-care agreement and boost the annual growth rate of the Canada Health Transfer by six per cent if elected. That plan would add nearly $60 billion to the system over a decade.
Erin O’Toole did fall short of promising to hire more front-line workers.
Jagmeet Singh and the NDP announced $250 million to address the health-care worker shortage, a fund to help hire 2,000 nurses across the country.
The Green Party, meanwhile, promised to develop national health-care guidelines.
Toronto emergency room doctor Chris Keefer said in the meantime, patients are the ones really suffering.
“If nurses aren’t available to get orders done, to get procedures done and treatments done, patients wait and wait and wait. And people are already quite frustrated with that. But it’s getting worse and worse and it’s getting critical,” Keefer said.
“It’s impossible to run a department shorthanded,” she said, worried the time to save the health-care system is running out.
“There’s not a lot of veteran nurses left,” she said. “if you want to keep health care somewhat safe, then you need to retain the people you have. You need the veterans. You need to retain who you have now.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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