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Distilleries across Canada fight COVID-19 by making hand sanitizer – CTV News

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TORONTO —
With customers having retreated to their homes in the wake of COVID-19, distilleries across North America are finding a new way to serve the public: by using their facilities and high-proof alcohol to make hand sanitizer.

There have been reports from all over the country of distilleries putting their equipment to use in order to help out front-line workers and address shortages in hand sanitizer within their communities.

The key thing when it comes to hand sanitizer is alcohol. According to the CDC, hand sanitizer is more effective if it is at least 60 per cent alcohol. Distilleries are primed to be able to manufacture the product.

In Ontario alone, there are distilleries in Windsor, Perth, Toronto and other places across the province contributing to the cause.

The Corby Spirit and Wine Ltd. distillery in Walkerville, which has been in operation for more than 160 years, added hand sanitizer to its production line on March 19, and is donating the product.

Garrett Kean, the assistant production manager at Top Shelf Distillers in Perth, said they are doing their best to follow the specific formula dictated by the World Health Organization to make sure their hand sanitizer is up to snuff. The WHO formula calls for a mixture of glycerol, hydrogen peroxide, distilled water, and either ethanol or isopropyl alcohol.

Not all of the ingredients are easy to come by — Top Shelf had to use coconut oil in place of glycerol in their first batch.

They started a fundraiser in order to help them acquire supplies and meet their goal of delivering to front-line workers first, promising that those who donate will also receive a personal bottle of hand sanitizer once health care workers have received what they need.

In Toronto, the Spirit of York distillery is focusing its new line of production on delivering to local residents in need. Specifically, they are offering their hand sanitizer for free to those over 65 years of age and those who can’t afford it.

Anyone who is able to pay will only be charged $3 a bottle.

They said they were inspired by stories of people hoarding hand sanitizer or Lysol wipes in the hopes of selling them at a higher price and turning a profit.

“We decided to go the other way,” said Gerry Guitor, the founder of Spirit of York.

“Our mandate is always giving back to the community … its part of our core values, so when we saw what was happening we decided we needed to something.”

Ethanol that they normally use to make gin and vodka is now being used entirely on their hand sanitizer production.

Geoff Dillon, the founder of Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers, which is housed in a small town just west of St. Catharines, said that his team was inspired last week while they were “sitting around … kind of depressed, watching the news.”

They realized that they “had a building full of alcohol,” he told CTV News Channel on Sunday.

“We thought we could do more (to help).”

They started out making hand sanitizer, but switched to a spray-on disinfectant when they ran out of some of the supplies they needed.

“We’re doing an 80 per cent solution right now,” Dillon said. “It’s de-natured, so you can’t drink it.”

They’ve partnered with local companies who are going to be providing delivery vehicles, and then they hope to get their product out “to essential workers who need it.”

In Nova Scotia, the Ironworks Distillery in Lunenburg has shifted some of their production into hand sanitizer, although they are still open for business for online orders of spirits.

Their bottles of hand sanitizer are being sold for $5 each, with the proceeds all going to the Lunenberg Fisherman’s Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.

In Saskatchewan, two Saskatoon distilleries are manufacturing and distributing personal hand sanitizer to all emergency and frontline workers in Saskatoon free of charge.

Stumbletown Distillery partnered with Lucky Bastard Distillery to produce the essential product. They were approached by Saskatchewan Blue Cross after word got out of their efforts, who agreed to cover the labelling costs for the sanitizer. Paramedics picked up an order last week.

On the west coast is another partnership, but this time, between two companies that normally make very different products.

Victoria Distillers is working with a local cosmetics business called Nezza Naturals in order to figure out how to convert leftover alcoholic byproduct from the distilling process into hand sanitizer. The distillery provides the alcohol, and Nezza Naturals blends it in with the other ingredients necessary to create the hand sanitizer.

Currently, their focus is to serve their local community and essential services staff.

More and more distilleries have been signing up for the job since the first stories of distilleries putting their equipment to use started coming out of the U.S. in mid-March.

One of the first distilleries to make public their new quest was Eight Oaks Farm Distillery in Pennsylvania, which first started filling bottles with their new sanitizer on March 16.

Owners and employees from distilleries involved in the aid process say they’ve had an overwhelming response from their local and international communities. Many have applauded the distilleries for stepping up in the wake of hand sanitizer shortages across the continent.

“There’s been a lot of tears shed here by the employees we have left,” said Dillon. “It’s been unbelievable. We have so many thousands of emails and voice mails and messages. We’re just trying to stay above water right now and get as much out as we can.”

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Canadian Transportation Agency overwhelmed by 2-year backlog of air passenger complaints – CBC.ca

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The Canadian Transportation Agency is wrestling with a backlog of nearly 14,000 air passenger complaints accumulated over the past two years, at the same time as thousands of Canadians are demanding the agency help get their money back from flights cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than half of the 26,000 complaints submitted to the CTA from July 2018 to April 2020 are unresolved, according to a response to an order paper question by the NDP tabled in Parliament last week on the number, nature and resolution of passenger complaints.

The bulk of the complaints — which are meant to be addressed within 30 to 120 days — are for disruptions to flights including cancellations, tarmac delays and people being denied boarding. 

The backlog doesn’t come as a surprise to Mahesh Krishnamurthy, a Canadian living in the U.S. who flies often and has launched four complaints with the agency over the past 15 years.

“Four complaints, zero resolutions,” Krishnamurthy said. “You know it’s frustrating, but you realize at the end, sometimes that’s what government is.”

Krishnamurthy recently submitted a complaint about an Air Canada flight from New York to Australia, which was meant to depart in April but was cancelled because of travel restrictions. His other complaints have included delays or problems with ticket prices. 

Complaints surged after new passenger protections implemented

The CTA told CBC News the vast majority of untouched cases are not tied to the global public health crisis, which largely grounded air travel around the world.  

The number of complaints more than doubled after the second wave of air passenger protection regulations came into effect in December 2019, the agency said.

The regulations, first enacted in July 2019, are intended to ensure that both airlines and passengers know what their rights are when it comes to travel setbacks like delays and cancellations. The CTA is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal and regulator tasked with settling disputes between the customers and airlines. 

It simply reflects the challenges of handling a 23-fold leap in demand– Canadian Transportation Agency

“The massive increase in complaint volumes has made it increasingly challenging to meet these standards, despite the mobilization of effort across the organization,” the agency wrote in a statement to CBC News. 

“This isn’t for lack of effort or commitment; it simply reflects the challenges of handling a 23-fold leap in demand.”

The agency said it has attempted to tackle the influx of cases by resolving complaints through more informal methods including mediation, launching inquiries to simultaneously clear up common complaints about the same issue and reallocating resources internally.

NDP transport critic Niki Ashton said the backlog shows the agency isn’t doing its job to protect passengers.

“The Canadian government should be stepping up … to make sure that Canadians’ complaints are being heard, are being resolved,” Ashton said.

Thousands of complaints since onset of pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the mounting pile of complaints. 

The CTA says it logged about 5,500 complaints from March 11 to May 28, though it did not disclose what they were about.

The number was revealed as Canadians across the country are calling on the federal government to compel airlines to refund costs for flights they were never able to board. Most Canadian airlines have offered passengers travel vouchers redeemable within two years — something the CTA has said could be reasonable during these extraordinary circumstances. 

Ashton, however, believes Ottawa should look harder at compensating those who cancelled their trips.

“That’s something that we know is a huge issue right now,” she said.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Friday that forcing airlines to refund passengers would have a “devastating effect” on an already battered industry.

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau said Canadian airlines could go bankrupt if they were forced to refund passengers billions of dollars for flights cancelled due to the pandemic. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, the CTA says that while none of its services were suspended because of the pandemic, it did suspend its interactions with airlines about outstanding disputes. 

That decision was made to allow carriers “to focus on immediate demands, such as repatriating Canadians stranded abroad, and to adjust their operations in light of plummeting passenger and flight volumes,” the agency said.

The CTA added conversations will resume with airlines starting in July. 

CAA: ‘The system is simply clogged up’

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) — a travel agency and consumer group that originally pushed for the passenger protections and took part in the consultation process — said the CTA can’t support passengers if it doesn’t have the staffing or resources to do so. 

“We’ve been saying since the start of this process that no matter how good the rules are, if we don’t have good enforcement, it’s simply not going to work,” said CAA spokesperson Ian Jack.

“The system is simply clogged up and not working. If we don’t have a system that people can trust because it’s going to deal with a complaint in a timely fashion, then the system just falls apart and we’re no better off than we were before we pushed to get this airline passenger bill of rights.”

Canadian Automobile Association spokesperson Ian Jack says that the CTA needs more staffing and resources to do its job, but that the agency also needs to be more transparent about its caseload. (Jean-Francois Benoit/CBC)

The CTA received temporary funding from the federal government over the past two fiscal years to address the rise in complaints, but the agency was not able to immediately confirm the amount to CBC News. The agency did say it nearly doubled the number of complaints it processed during that time period.

Jack said the next step is to go beyond opposition parties asking questions in Parliament: he wants to see data about complaints and the CTA’s response times made publicly available so consumers can see for themselves if it’s working.

“If people lose trust in the system, they’re never going to come back to it and we’re not going to have an effective air passenger rights regime in this country,” he said.

Krishnamurthy agrees.

“By the third or fourth time, you don’t really have any expectations of them actually resolving the complaint,” he said. “You know you’ve got to do it on your own.”

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Canada to spend $30M to promote holidays at home amid COVID-19 border closure – Globalnews.ca

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Canada will invest $30 million to enable its provinces and territories to promote holidays in their “own back yard” because of the closure of the country’s borders due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Destination Canada, the country’s national marketing body which usually focuses on luring international visitors, is due to announce the new funding later on Sunday, according to a statement seen by Reuters before its official release.


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Canada, which has had more than 7,000 deaths due to COVID-19, has closed its borders to non-essential travel since March, and it is unclear when they will be opened again. Many provinces have also shut down domestic non-essential travel.

Quebec, which shares borders with the U.S. states of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, accounts for more than 60 per cent of the Canadian death toll from the virus, and Ontario, the most populous province, has also been hit hard.

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The closures have hammered the tourism industry. Some 42 per cent of businesses in the accommodation and food sectors have reported revenue drops of more than 50  per cent, according to an April survey of 12,600 businesses.

At the end of 2018, one out of every 11 jobs in Canada was directly tied to travel, according to the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, but in April the unemployment rate in the tourism sector skyrocketed to more than 28 per cent.


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Tourism is “a significant economic driver and source of local jobs. It’s also among one of the hardest hit sectors as a result of this pandemic,” Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly, who is responsible for tourism, said in the statement.

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The aim is to provide a valuable lifeline to the struggling sector during its peak summer season, Ben Cowan-Dewar, chairman of Destination Canada, said in the statement.

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It is the first time Destination Canada has provided funding for domestic marketing, according to a spokesman in Joly’s office. The marketing arm in each of the 10 provinces and three territories will decide exactly how they want to use the money, the spokesman said.

© 2020 Reuters

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Ottawa pledges millions to promote holiday travel in Canada during pandemic – CTV News

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Ottawa is earmarking millions of dollars to promote holiday travel inside Canada as it seeks to help the tourism industry weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funds announced by Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly on Sunday includes $30 million originally earmarked for attracting foreign visitors through the federal tourism marketing agency, Destination Canada.

The money will instead be used to help provinces and territories encourage Canadians to discover their “own backyard” as the country’s international borders remain largely closed due to COVID-19.

The government is also setting aside around $40 million so tourism agencies in southern and northern Ontario as well as western Canada can adapt their operations to the pandemic, particularly as what would normally be the busy summer season approaches.

“A lot of people who have lost their jobs are in the tourism sector right now and the entire idea right now is to save the summer, but to save the summer differently,” Joly told The Canadian Press in an interview.

“There’s an entire movement across the country to shop locally. We see that people want to discover or support even more their local businesses. … Well I would add to that a new movement: visit local. And rediscover your beautiful city and your region.”

Talks around supporting the tourism industries in Quebec and Atlantic Canada are underway, she added.

The tourism industry, which employs about one in 11 Canadians, has been hit hard by the pandemic as international travel bans and border restrictions have choked off the flow of visitors to Canada.

A report by Destination Canada in April suggested the sector could see total tourism spending decline by about a third from 2019 levels and result in the loss of about 263,000 jobs, many of them associated with small- and medium-sized companies.

Joly pointed to the federal government’s wage subsidy, rent assistance and other emergency COVID-19 measures as having helped the tourism sector, but said additional efforts are needed as the summer approaches and provinces start to re-open.

Yet the new funds come as Canadians are still being told to stay at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some provinces are starting to ease back on restrictions around movement, but fears of a second wave are ever present.

“Obviously people are trying to find the right balance between having a tourism sector that can survive and at the same time making sure that we don’t continue the spread of the virus,” Joly said when asked about promoting travel during a pandemic.

“And to do that we need to abide by the public-health authorities’ advice and at the same time support the tourism sector and find new ways for them to be able to have revenue. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Leaders from across Canada’s tourism industry announced the creation of a new roundtable last week while calling for talks with the government around the easing of travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines to prevent long-term damage to the sector.

In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the roundtable members noted the European Union and Australia had already started taking steps to prepare for the critical summer tourism season.

“We propose to work closely with the federal government to responsibly take the necessary steps, including additional bio-security measures if appropriate, to ensure that the upcoming summer travel season is not entirely lost,” the letter reads.

“The highly restrictive measures in place today are not sustainable. Like the government, we want to avoid a second wave of the virus and are certain reasonable measures can be taken to help mitigate risk.”

Joly was more circumspect when asked about easing travel restrictions, saying the timing would depend on when adequate mass testing and contact tracing can be established as well as the provision of personal protective equipment.

“I had a conversation with the ministers of tourism of the G20 a month ago,” she said.

“We all agreed that for a while we will be supporting local tourism and eventually regional tourism, and then eventually national tourism and then eventually international tourism. So that’s not only happening here in Canada, it’s happening in all of the world.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2020.

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