OTTAWA, Ont. – Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has changed the rate at which drivers can claim meal expenses using the simplified method from $17 to $23 per meal.
The changes are retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020. The announcement was made by federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau during a media briefing Sept. 3.
The former $17 limit was last updated in 2009. The feds say increasing the limit provides truckers with more flexibility and more accurately reflects the cost of a meal today, while also recognizing the work they’ve done keeping Canadians supplied with needed food and supplies during the pandemic.
“This is an important measure of support for Canada’s transportation sector employees, particularly our truckers,” said Garneau. “Canadians owe much to the tireless work of Canada’s truck drivers, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. These increased meal allowance rates will ensure that truckers and other essential workers can access affordable meals as they travel long distances, transporting critical goods and supplies.”
Rosedale Transport’s new Ottawa terminal served as the backdrop to the announcement. Garneau praised Canada’s truckers for keeping goods moving during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“First and foremost, on behalf of the Canadian government, I would like to express our gratitude to all those who work in the Canadian trucking industry,” he said. “This year, more than ever, you’ve been on the front lines. You’ve kept our country going, moving food, medicine and so many other essential goods that keep Canadians safe and healthy.”
Stephen Laskowski, head of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), noted truckers have seen the cost of food and water increase by as much as 100%-300% in some areas during the pandemic.
“Today’s announcement is a significant measure and commitment from the Government of Canada,” he said. “Some of the simplest things like resting and eating have been challenging for our sector.”
Garneau thanked the CTA and other industry groups such as the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) and Teamsters Canada for “standing shoulder to shoulder with Transport Canada during these unprecedented times.”
PMTC president Mike Millian said a coalition of transportation associations had appealed to the feds earlier this year for help dealing with increasing driver expenses while on the road.
“We are glad to see the government act on this and thrilled to see they are making it retroactive,” Millian said. “While it does not help the driver in the short term, it will put money back in their pockets at the end of the year.”
Garneau likened the increased limits to a tax credit that truckers will enjoy when filing their 2020 income taxes. “It’s very important for the trucking industry, which has been making enormous sacrifices these past few months. It’s deferred tax income that would come to the government otherwise, but it’s very much deserved by our truckers.”
Laskowski noted truckers have had fewer options for rest and food since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many restaurants, including truck stop buffets, were closed and truckers struggled to find affordable and healthy meals. Price increases were particularly acute in remote areas, Laskowski added.
“The meal allowance policy change will assist our essential workers who continue to move our nation’s domestic and two-way trade with the U.S.,” he said. “These positive changes to the meal allowance policy is an investment in securing the Canadian supply chain and is a symbol of the value and respect cabinet – and Minister Garneau, particularly – has for our nation’s commercial truck drivers.”
The news was welcomed by Shelley Uvanile-Hesch, head of the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada and a longhaul truck driver for Sharp Transportation.
“Today’s announcement by Minister Garneau shows incredible support for the trucking industry and its workforce throughout the Covid-19 pandemic,” she told Today’s Trucking. “These have been challenging times for all Canadians. Yet through these challenges our driving force has stayed committed and dedicated to moving our nation’s commodities across the nation. With the rising cost of food and the decline in the Canada-U.S. exchange rate, this is a very welcomed increase to our professional drivers.”
Uvanile-Hesch said longhaul drivers will see a significant benefit. A driver averaging 21 days a month over the road, for example, will see a roughly $1,512 increased return at tax time, according to her calculations.
Premier Doug Ford indicated his willingness to grant the request by London officials.
He said his cabinet will discuss requests from mayors and medical officials from other areas of the province to extend restrictions.
“We’re going to be rolling (it) out to other areas across the province from the request of the mayors,” Ford said in Ottawa. “I listen to the medical experts. I’ll base this on the health and science.”
He also promised that his plan to address a possible second wave this fall will be released by the province next week.
Under the province’s enhanced restrictions, the fine for hosting a rule-breaking party starts at $10,000.
Mackie is anticipating the province will expand its gathering size restrictions to include the London-area in time for the weekend.
If the province doesn’t act immediately, the health unit is not ruling out issuing an order under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act to restrict private gathering sizes, but the move would take up to a week to come into effect, Mackie said.
The decision to issue a Section 22 order would come Monday or Tuesday of next week if the province’s restrictions are not in place, Mackie said.
The health unit has reported 47 new COVID-19 cases, including 39 among Western students, in the last week and declared three outbreaks.
One outbreak is connected to post-secondary students and the downtown party scene, including the bar Lost Love. The second outbreak is linked to a large student party this past weekend that drew “dozens,” Mackie said. The third involved staff at the Walmart store in Hyde Park.
None of the 39 Western students who tested positive have required hospitalization, Mackie said.
The health unit reported 13 new cases Friday, bringing the total number of new cases in the area to 24 over the past two days — nearly the same number reported in the entire first two weeks of September.
For weeks, the daily growth in new London-area cases had held steady at about one to two each day.
The Thursday-Friday case increases are the biggest two-day jump since April 18 and 19, when the health unit reported 17 new cases each day.
“Depending on how we fare over the weekend, this could become the worst stretch of cases in London-Middlesex since the pandemic’s onset,” Mayor Ed Holder said Friday.
“Please wear a mask, physically distance, avoid large crowds. . . . We can do this, we just need more of us to do a little better.”
Police in Canada say they recently charged a Tesla Model S owner with driving dangerously for sleeping at his car’s wheel. In July, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) say they responded to a speeding complaint on Highway 2 near Ponoka — a town in Alberta, south of the province’s capital of Edmonton. Those who saw the car report it was traveling faster than 140 kilometers per hour (86MPH), with the front seats “completely reclined,” and both the driver and passenger seemingly asleep. When a police officer found the 2019 Model S and turned on their emergency lights, the vehicle accelerated to 150 kilometers per hour (about 93MPH) before it eventually stopped.
Police initially charged the driver, a 20-year-old man from the province of British Columbia, with speeding and handed him a 24-hour license suspension for driving while fatigued. He was also later charged with dangerous driving and has a court date in December.
It’s unclear how the Model S driver misused Autopilot in the way that they did. The incident occurred before Tesla updated the system to give it the ability to detect speed limit signs using a vehicle’s cameras. However, as The Verge notes, Tesla has said Autopilot will only work when it detects that the driver has their hands on the steering wheel. If that’s not the case, the car will try to get the driver’s attention with visual and audio warnings before disabling Autopilot.
But the fact that drivers can disengage from Autopilot is something that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the US has criticized Tesla over repeatedly. In March, the agency published a report that said a Model 3 driver’s overreliance on the system — in a situation it wasn’t designed to handle — led to a deadly crash in Delray Beach, Florida in 2019.
In this latest incident, the RCMP similarly warned against overlying on Autopilot. “Although manufacturers of new vehicles have built in safeguards to prevent drivers from taking advantage of the new safety systems in vehicles, those systems are just that — supplemental safety systems,” said Superintendent Gary Graham of Alberta RCMP Traffic Services. “They are not self-driving systems, they still come with the responsibility of driving.”
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Gains for Canadian retailers slowed sharply in July and August, suggesting pent-up demand from prior months has been largely extinguished.
Sales grew 0.6 per cent in July, versus 23 per cent in June and 21 per cent in May, Statistics Canada said Friday in Ottawa. Excluding vehicles, receipts unexpectedly dropped 0.4 per cent, versus a forecast gain of 0.5 per cent. Preliminary estimates from the agency show receipts climbed 1.1 per cent in August, suggesting the weaker trend will continue.
The report reinforces warnings that the pace of the recovery will slow in the second half of the year, after a strong V-shaped rebound through the early summer.
“All in all, the numbers imply that retail activity is normalizing after the whipsaw of a huge downturn and recovery,” said Scotiabank economist Brett House in a note.
Core retail sales, or those excluding vehicles and gasoline, dropped 1.2 per cent.
Still, the rebound has been impressive. In July, retail sales were up 2.7 per cent compared with year earlier levels.
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