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Approval of Transat takeover will make industry less competitive, WestJet CEO warns

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‘The real losers in all of this are Canadians who believe in open and healthy competition,’ Ed Sims wrote on Westjet’s website

OTTAWA — The chief executive of WestJet is “deeply disappointed” by the Liberal government’s approval of a proposed takeover by Air Canada, saying the transaction will make the Canadian airline industry less competitive and ultimately raise prices for Canadians.

In a blog post on Friday, Ed Sims, head of the Calgary-based airline, said Air Canada’s potential takeover of Montreal-based Transat A.T. effectively undoes years of work toward ensuring industry competitiveness, and was approved by Ottawa without “meaningful remedies.”

“The real losers in all of this are Canadians who believe in open and healthy competition,” Sims wrote on the company’s website.

Canada’s Competition Bureau had itself recommended against approving the merger, saying it would reduce travel among Canadians in part due to higher prices for flights.

“Eliminating the rivalry between these airlines would result in increased prices, less choice, decreases in service and a significant reduction in travel by Canadians on a variety of routes where their existing networks overlap,” the bureau said.

The Liberal government nonetheless disregarded its own advice and approved the $180-million acquisition on Thursday. In a press release, federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the transaction would be “subject to strict terms and conditions that are in the interests of Canadians.”

Those included the introduction of a seemingly toothless “price-monitoring mechanism,” a commitment by Air Canada to introduce new destinations in the next five years, and a contractual obligation to “facilitate aircraft maintenance in Canada, prioritizing contracts in Quebec.”

In the blog post on Friday, Sims argued those measures don’t even begin to address competitiveness worries following the proposed transaction. The price-monitoring mechanism only forces Air Canada to “disclose pricing trends on the overlapping routes to both Europe and sun destinations,” according to Transport Canada’s release.

Air Canada now owns 94 per cent of Canadian carrier space to European destinations; a nearly 70 per cent market share in flights departing from Toronto to Paris, Rome and London; and a 54 per cent overall share of flights from Toronto to sun destinations, compared with WestJet’s 19 per cent, according to Sims.

“For the relatively low cost of $190 million (essentially the cost of a single wide body aircraft like WestJet’s 787 Dreamliner), years of effort to foster true competition has been undone,” Sims wrote. “This is akin to telecommunications giants Bell and Rogers becoming one without significant concessions.”

The deal works out to about $5 per share of Transat stock, well below the roughly $18 per share Air Canada had proposed for the company in 2019.

In a Dec. 3 testimony before the House of Commons industry committee, Matthew Boswell, commissioner of competition at the bureau, had warned against opportunistic pandemic-related mergers similar to Air Canada’s.

“Sadly, in the months ahead, it is possible that we will see a rise in merger transactions involving failing businesses,” he said. “In assessing these transactions, we must maintain our normal rigour and analytical framework. Relaxing our standards in a crisis period could cause irreversible enhancement of market concentration, leading to deeper and longer-term harm to consumers and the economy.”

This is akin to telecommunications giants Bell and Rogers becoming one without significant concessions

Alghabra on Thursday acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic was a “key factor” in his approval of the takeover.

“Noting the effects of the pandemic on air service in general, and on Transat A.T. in particular, the Government of Canada has determined that the proposed acquisition offers the best probable outcomes for workers, for Canadians seeking service and choice in leisure travel to Europe, and for other Canadian industries that rely on air transport, particularly aerospace,” he said in the release.

His comments come as Canadian airlines struggle with a complete collapse in flight bookings, which has in turn threatened the ability of smaller airlines to remain in operation.

In a committee meeting last week, Air Canada and WestJet both called for clarity from Ottawa on when travel restrictions might be eased, saying they are bleeding cash at unsustainable rates.

WestJet has seen its bookings drop 95 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels, the company said, while both companies have laid off tens of thousands of employees. Air Canada posted a staggering $1.16 billion loss in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Meanwhile, Alghabra also suggested in his Thursday decision that cancelled Transat flights would be redeemed under Air Canada following the transaction. Ottawa is still in discussions with airlines over refund polices.

“Refunds are an integral part of the negotiations with airlines regarding any assistance plan, and the government will continue to take into account the needs of Transat A.T. customers.”

 

 

Source: – National Post

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Nova Scotia reports 3 new cases of COVID-19 Sunday – HalifaxToday.ca

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NEWS RELEASE
COVID-19/HEALTH/WELLNESS
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Three new cases of COVID-19 are being reported in Nova Scotia today, Feb. 28.

One case is in Central Zone and is a close contact of a previous case.

One case is in Eastern Zone and is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

One case is in Northern Zone and is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

All three people are self-isolating, as required.

“I want to thank the Nova Scotians who have responded in great numbers to get tested, setting a one-day record at the lab,” said Premier Iain Rankin. “Let’s continue to make proactive testing a top priority. No matter whether you live in Halifax or elsewhere in the province, I encourage you, even if you don’t have symptoms, to book an appointment at one of the primary assessment centres or drop into a pop-up testing site.

As of today, Feb. 28, Nova Scotia has 38 active cases of COVID-19.

Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed a record 4,839 Nova Scotia tests on Feb. 27, compared to the previous high of 4,125, completed on Nov. 30. Additional comparisons:
— Last Saturday, Feb. 20, the lab completed 1,698 tests.
— Including today’s report, the average for the last seven days is 2,808 tests per day.

In addition, the number of people getting a pop-up test on both Friday and Saturday was four times higher than the average daily total.

Since Oct. 1, Nova Scotia has completed 211,008 tests. There have been 552 positive COVID-19 cases and no deaths. Two people are currently in hospital, in ICU. Cases range in age from under 10 to over 70. There are 514 resolved cases. Cumulative cases may change as data is updated in Panorama.

“While the case numbers are low today, we must remain vigilant and keep following the restrictions to ensure our communities stay safe,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health. “Follow all the public health measures and make testing part of your regular COVID-19 prevention measures. And if you have flu or cold symptoms, it is especially important you get tested for COVID-19.”

Nova Scotians are strongly encouraged to seek asymptomatic COVID-19 testing, particularly if they have a large number of close contacts due to their work or social activities. Appointments can be booked at https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/ , by choosing the asymptomatic option. Rapid testing pop-up sites continue to be set up around the province as well. More information on testing can be found at https://www.nshealth.ca/coronavirustesting .

Visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/ to do a self-assessment if in the past 48 hours you have had or you are currently experiencing:

— fever (i.e. chills/sweats) or cough (new or worsening)

Or:

Two or more of the following symptoms (new or worsening):
— sore throat
— runny nose/nasal congestion
— headache
— shortness of breath/difficulty breathing

Call 811 if you cannot access the online self-assessment or wish to speak with a nurse about your symptoms.

When a new case of COVID-19 is confirmed, the person is directed to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for 14 days. Public health works to identify and test people who may have come in close contact with that person.

Anyone who has travelled from anywhere except Prince Edward Island must self-isolate for 14 days. As always, anyone who develops symptoms of acute respiratory illness should limit their contact with others until they feel better.

It remains important for Nova Scotians to strictly adhere to the public health order and directives — practise good hand washing and other hygiene steps, maintain a physical distance when and where required. Wearing a non-medical mask is mandatory in most indoor public places.

Nova Scotians can find accurate, up-to-date information, handwashing posters and fact sheets at https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus .

Businesses and other organizations can find information to help them safely reopen and operate at https://novascotia.ca/reopening-nova-scotia .

Quick Facts:
— additional information on COVID-19 case data, testing and vaccines is available at https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/data/
— a state of emergency was declared under the Emergency Management Act on March 22, 2020 and extended to March 7, 2021
— online booking for COVID-19 testing appointments is available at https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/

Additional Resources:
Government of Canada: https://canada.ca/coronavirus

Government of Canada information line 1-833-784-4397 (toll-free)

The Mental Health Provincial Crisis Line is available 24/7 to anyone experiencing a mental health or addictions crisis, or someone concerned about them, by calling 1-888-429-8167 (toll-free)

If you need help with a non-crisis mental health or addiction concern call Community Mental Health and Addictions at 1-855-922-1122 (toll-free) weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Kids Help Phone is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free)

For help or information about domestic violence 24/7, call 1-855-225-0220 (toll-free)

For more information about COVID-19 testing and online booking, visit https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/symptoms-and-testing/

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Latest COVID update Feb. 27: 5 deaths,162 new cases, record high vaccinations – CKOM News Talk Sports

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Saskatchewan saw a record amount of daily COVID-19 vaccinations as the province hit a total of 75,501 to date.

The record-high 5,211 doses were administered in the Saskatoon (254), Regina (286), far northwest (33), north-central (869), northwest (918), central-east (1202), central-west (403), southeast (570) and southwest (676) zones on Friday.

There were also five people with the virus who died in the province, bringing the number of Saskatchewan residents who have died with COVID to 385.

The deaths were reported in the 80 plus age group from the Regina (three), Saskatoon (one) and southeast (one) zones.

There were 162 new cases of the coronavirus reported in the province on Saturday, bringing the provincial total to 28,506 cases.

The new cases are located in the far northwest (27), far northeast (five), northwest (13), north-central (three), northeast (nine), Saskatoon (23), central-east (18), Regina (52), south-central (seven) and southeast (one) zones, while four cases are pending residence information. Nine cases with pending residence information were assigned to the far northeast (one), northwest (one), north-central (three), Regina (three) and south-central (one) zones.

The number of people in hospitals throughout the province battling COVID-19 continues to drop.

There are 151 people in hospital with the virus, including 135 people receiving inpatient care in the far northwest (five), far northeast (two), northwest (11), north-central (13), northeast (one), Saskatoon (53), central-west (one), central-east (seven), Regina (36), south-central (two) and southeast (four) areas.

Sixteen people are in intensive care with COVID in the northwest (one), Saskatoon (nine) and Regina (six) regions.

There are a total of 26,573 recoveries from the virus to date and 1,548 cases are considered active.

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Canada adds 45 new COVID-19 deaths as P.E.I. introduces ‘circuit breaker’ measures – Global News

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One of the provinces that’s largely escaped the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly moved to stem a burgeoning outbreak on Saturday, while Canada’s two long-standing virus hot spots marked a grim anniversary and braced to pass some sobering milestones in their respective fights against the pandemic.

All of this comes amid another 2,724 cases of COVID-19 reported by health authorities across the country Saturday, pushing the national caseload to 864,132. Another 45 deaths were reported on Saturday as well, with the country’s death toll standing at 21,960.

At least 811,300 patients have since recovered from contracting the virus however, while over 24.8 million tests and 1.83 million vaccine doses have been administered.

Prince Edward Island’s newly announced “circuit-breaker” measures, which limit gathering sizes and social circles, are meant to clamp down on an outbreak of COVID-19 that officials believe is linked to the variant of the virus that first emerged in the United Kingdom.

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“We do seem to be stuck in this tangled spider’s web of COVID and it won’t really let us out of its grip,” P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said Saturday.

Read more:
COVID-19 cases are down across Canada, but hospitals aren’t celebrating yet. Here’s why

The measures come into effect Sunday and are set to last two weeks.

They also prohibit indoor dining and receptions for weddings and funerals, while limiting occupancy in retail stores and gyms.

The province counted six new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, all among people in their 20s. None of the cases are linked to travel outside the province.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

P.E.I. has had 127 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, 10 per cent of which are currently active.


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Alone and Apart: Loneliness pandemic’s toll on mental health

Ontario, meanwhile, is poised to cross the 300,000 case threshold on Sunday after the 1,185 new infections counted Saturday pushed the overall tally to 299,754.

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The province has been logging roughly 1,000 new cases per day in recent weeks. Ontario is also approaching 7,000 total deaths linked to the virus, with 6,960 recorded as of Saturday.

The province is taking a regional approach to its pandemic response, and is set to push two public health units back into lockdown on Monday — Simcoe-Muskoka and Thunder Bay.

Meanwhile, restrictions will loosen Monday in the Niagara Region, Chatham-Kent; Middlesex-London; Southwestern; Haldimand-Norfolk; Huron Perth; and Grey Bruce public health regions.

Read more:
There’s no ‘best’ vaccine, expert says as Canada OKs AstraZeneca shots

Meanwhile Quebec, Ontario’s neighbour to the east, marked one year since detecting its first case of COVID-19.

In that time, it’s seen 287,003 cases of the virus, including 858 that were announced Saturday. It also logged 13 more deaths for a total of 10,385.

But Premier Francois Legault said there was reason for optimism, as the infection rate has been relatively stable and the province has begun vaccinating members of the general public in some regions.

“We should receive around 175,000 doses of vaccine per week in March and therefore we will move quickly,” Legault wrote. “We still have a few critical weeks ahead of us, especially because of the spring break and the new variants.”

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The province has 34 confirmed variant cases with 30 of them identified as the B.1.1.7 mutation first detected in the U.K.

Elsewhere, New Brunswick reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, while Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador each added four.

Manitoba recorded 88 new cases of the virus and four more deaths, while Saskatchewan added five deaths and 162 new infections.

Alberta, meanwhile, reported six new deaths linked to COVID-19 and 415 new diagnoses.

— With files from Global News

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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