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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Sunday, Dec. 27 –



The latest:

  • Alberta reported an estimated 500 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday.
  • However, the province noted that fewer people were tested on Christmas Day, so fewer tests were processed and reported on Dec. 26.
  • The province reported a 7 per cent positivity rate on Sunday.
  • No new data related to hospitalizations, ICU numbers or deaths was released Sunday.
  • The next in-person media availability is expected to be held Dec. 28.
  • Alberta is making a one-time exemption to its social gathering rules for people who live alone, allowing them to visit another household once between Dec. 23 and 28, the province announced Tuesday. A household must host a maximum of only two people who live alone. 
  • The province is also relaxing its rules on massage therapy, which will now be allowed if someone has a prescription and if precautionary measures are in place.
  • Case numbers show Alberta’s school plan worked to slow COVID-19 spread, the province’s top doctor says.
  • Alberta Health Services began the rollout of an additional 25,350 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to all health-care zones on Wednesday. More than 3,000 health-care workers in Calgary and Edmonton have received their first dose.
  • Health Canada has approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in this country, clearing the way for thousands of doses to arrive by month’s end. The federal department announced the approval on Wednesday after completing a review of the company’s clinical trial data.
  • The active case total peaked at 21,138 on Dec. 13, the day after a raft of new provincial restrictions went into effect.
  • Calgary Stampede officials say they’re hopeful they’ll be able to mount a modified version of the event in 2021 after it was cancelled this year because of the pandemic.
  • Alberta leads the country in terms of the number of passengers hit with fines or warning letters for refusing to wear a mask on board a flight, CBC reported Tuesday.
  • Anyone who has been in the United Kingdom in the past 14 days should get tested for COVID-19, whether they’re symptomatic or not in view of the new, potentially more contagious strain of the coronavirus spreading in that country, the Alberta government said Monday. The province also said travellers from the UK who are participating in Alberta’s border pilot rapid-test program must immediately quarantine, whether they’ve had a negative test or not.
  • A Calgary judge on Monday rejected an emergency application seeking a stay of Alberta’s COVID-19 public health restrictions, including bans on gatherings and mandatory masks. A Calgary law firm and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms appeared in court Monday to make an application for an emergency injunction staying Alberta’s public health restrictions alleging they violate constitutionally guaranteed rights. 
  • A southern Alberta hockey coach has been suspended and fined after speaking with the media about a COVID-19 outbreak on his team last month, CBC News reported Wednesday.
  • Parks Canada is asking hikers and skiers heading to the trails to plan ahead, as COVID restrictions may force plans to shift, especially during the winter holidays.
  • Single parents have always shouldered extra responsibilities, but the pandemic has exacerbated challenges for this growing segment of the Alberta population.
  • Paramedics are asking the government to expedite their access to the COVID-19 vaccine, as it’s not clear when they will be immunized.  which the government plans to administer to  29,000 health-care workers by the end of December and give to long-term care residents, staff who work in long-term care and designated supportive living centres, health-care workers in the highest risk areas of hospitals and people over the age of 75 in the first quarter of 2021.

What you need to know today in Alberta

Alberta reported an estimated 1,200 new cases of COVID-19 on Dec. 24 and 900 on Dec. 25.

The 900 figure marks the first time the new case count was below 1,000 since Nov. 17. No new hospitalization, ICU or death numbers were released.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said on Tuesday there will be a one-time exemption to the province’s gathering restrictions, allowing people who live alone to visit another household once between Dec. 23 and Dec. 28. 

A household must only host a maximum of two people who live alone, not including minors.

The province also relaxed another rule — massage therapy will now be allowed for those who have a prescription, with precautions in place. 

Premier Jason Kenney says new exemption allows Albertans who live alone to spend time with others over the holiday. 2:50

Kenney asked those who are thinking of breaking the rules over the holidays to consider the possible impact on the lives of others. 

“This is not a theory. This is not a model. This is not a political preference. It is a simple, hard, numerical reality of the pressure on the health-care system, which without these kinds of difficult restrictions and measures would, within a matter of weeks, undoubtedly overwhelm Alberta’s health-care system,” he said. 

“So we ask for people’s understanding at this particular time of year as they gather in smaller household groups to please do everything you can to avoid turning Christmas into a superspreader event that could have [a] devastating impact on the lives and health of thousands of your fellow Albertans.”

The provincewide R-value, or number of people infected by each person with the virus, was 0.92. 

Alberta’s steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 in schools are working, and case numbers suggest that when students do catch the virus, it’s usually outside their classrooms, says the province’s top public health doctor.

Case numbers in schools slowly increased throughout the fall, then began to rise more steeply in November, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday at a news conference.

In late November, the province brought in new health measures that paused team sports and group performances and limited social gatherings. Junior and senior high students shifted to learning at home while elementary-age students remained at school in person.

Hinshaw said that in all three age groups, new case numbers roughly tripled from the beginning of November to the end of the month, then plateaued and have fallen over the past few weeks.

“This similar trend in all three age groups supports the other evidence we have seen suggesting that the school model in place is protective against in-school transmission,” she said. “Instead, it seems that it is mainly all the other in-person activities that children undertake that are exposing them to the virus and helping to spread COVID-19.

Alberta chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Health-care workers throughout the province began rolling up their sleeves Wednesday as Alberta Health Services began rollling out an additional 25,350 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

AHS says 14 dedicated COVID-19 centres have been set up to receive the vaccine, which will be given to all eligible respiratory therapists, ICU staff and doctors, and some continuing care health-care workers.

Those getting immunized at this early stage were chosen based on how much they interacted with active COVID-19 cases, their risk of transmission and their roles on the front lines of the pandemic response, the government says.

Marcos Gloria wins the Bull Riding event during finals rodeo action at the Calgary Stampede on July 15, 2018. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Calgary Stampede president Dana Peers says planning is underway for next year, with fingers crossed, to stage the celebration of cowboy life, which brings in a million visitors each year and gives the local economy a $282-million boost.

The signature Calgary event was cancelled in 2020 because of the global pandemic.

“Who would have thought it would be a pandemic that would really take us to a whole new level of challenge?” Peers said in an interview.

The Stampede started on an annual basis in 1923. It had been held every year since, including in 2013, when Calgary and other communities in southern Alberta were devastated by flooding.

Young Ahmadiyya Muslims in Calgary are busier than ever, helping people deal with the second wave of COVID as part of a national campaign running throughout the pandemic.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association launched the Neighbourhood Helper campaign in response to growing numbers of COVID cases and is increasing efforts heading into the holiday season.

They are offering their services across the city, and in other parts of Canada, picking up groceries, filling prescriptions and offering moral support to people who are struggling and in isolation.

Founded in 1889, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community spans more than 200 countries with tens of millions of followers.

“The campaign started in April to help people and families who are self-isolating or dealing with COVID,” said Qamar Ahmad.

A southern Alberta hockey coach has been suspended and fined after speaking with the media about a COVID-19 outbreak on his team last month, CBC News has learned.

On Friday, the league issued a 15-game suspension and a $1,000 fine against Andrew Milne, the coach of the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Canmore Eagles, according to an email to AJHL executives and its member teams.

The suspension and fine were confirmed by league commissioner Ryan Bartoshyk, who said Milne was disciplined for “bringing discredit to the league.”

Meanwhile, the league is preventing teams from speaking publicly or posting on social media ordering all media requests related to the pandemic or the league’s return to play plan to the AJHL Office.

AJHL commissioner Ryan Bartoshyk, right, announced the suspension and fine issued against Canmore Eagles coach Andrew Milne, left, following Milne’s interviews with media regarding his team’s Covid outbreak. (Facebook/Canmore Eagles,

Transport Canada has handed out dozens of tickets and warning letters to passengers who refuse to wear masks on flights. Most of those have involved Alberta. 

A review of Transport Canada data by CBC News reveals that WestJet passengers have been the hardest hit — with 50 of the 72 incidents, or nearly 70 per cent, involving passengers on the Calgary-based airline.

WestJet passengers were also issued eight of the nine fines levied, with tickets ranging from $100 to as high as $2,000.

Those who receive warning letters could be handed a bigger fine if they violate the rules a second time. Transport Canada says the fine could be as high as $5,000.

Sweeping new restrictions intended to curb the surge of COVID-19 in the province took affect on Dec. 13. They will remain in place at least for four weeks — through Christmas and New Year’s. A full list of the tighter measures is available on the province’s website.

Outreach volunteers providing COVID-19 care kits started going door to door this week in some of the hardest hit neighbourhoods in Edmonton and Calgary. (Supplied by Noor Al-Henedy)

Single parents have always shouldered extra responsibilities, but the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated challenges for this growing segment of the Alberta population.

According to census data from Statistics Canada, Alberta is home to more than 186,000 lone-parent families. 

Though some share custody or have the help of a live-in partner, others have navigated the pandemic almost entirely on their own, balancing work, school and child care. 

This immersive art exhibit in Banff is helping locals find the Christmas spirit. Find out what you’re missing if you live outside the Bow Valley. 3:26

The pandemic has increased the weight of those responsibilities, according to Layna Haley, who runs support groups for single mothers online through the St. Albert-based Kaleo Collective. Her organization has seen a surge in single mothers seeking supports, she said.

Seven parents in the COVID-19 hotspots of Edmonton and Calgary shared their struggles — and successes — with CBC just days before the province enacted new restrictions. You can read them here.

Parks Canada is asking hikers and skiers heading to the trails to plan ahead, as COVID-19 restrictions may force plans to shift, especially during the winter holidays.

Daniella Rubeling, visitor experience manager for the agency’s Banff field unit, says one of the most important things to prepare for is the weather. 

“Winter weather conditions can change quickly. And as we can see today, you know, the weather conditions can be quite extreme sometimes. And so we want to make sure people are prepared with the right clothing, the right gear, checking the conditions before they go and making sure that they have some alternative plans in place,” she said on Tuesday.

“So should weather conditions change or parking lots be full … have some backup areas to visit.”

Single parents in Alberta talk about how they are handling work, school and child care during the COVID-19 pandemic. 0:56

Some parts of the Rockies received between 20 and 70 centimetres of snow on Tuesday, causing road closures and putting many areas at high risk of avalanches.

Another concern, Rubeling said, is people who are new to winter outdoor recreation.

While there are some closures, there’s still plenty to do in the mountain town and park — like winter walks, cross-country skiing and fat-biking. There is also downhill skiing, but some hills like Lake Louise have moved toward a reservation system.

People can visit the Parks Canada website for details on what’s open, what’s closed, what parking lots are full and how to enjoy the park safely, Rubeling said. 

When Alberta’s COVID-19 outreach program began to reach front doors this week, volunteers say they were met with delight and appreciation.

“It’s something you don’t expect to see at your door, someone handing out at least two packages of self-protective gear and saying ‘happy holidays,'” volunteer Hanan Noor said.

Volunteers have started distributing care kits this week directly to households in the neighbourhoods hit hardest by COVID-19 in Edmonton and Calgary. Noor participated in Edmonton on Tuesday and Wednesday, going door-to-door in the Mill Woods area.

Partners at the Edmonton Convention Centre (ECC) are celebrating Christmas this year despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, CBC News reported Tuesday.

The temporary shelter at the ECC opened in late October. The centre has access to showers, laundry, ceremonial support for Indigenous peoples, regular meals and sleeping spots, among other support services.

Although holiday celebrations will look a bit different this year, there will special meals and gifts to mark the occasion. 

“[We’ll have] a Christmas lunch service as well as a traditional turkey meal for the evening and volunteers will be handing out gifts to each participant that is on site and so that’ll be a bag of essential items. Socks, mittens and additional things they might need, some baked goods donated by local bakeries,” said Scarlet Bjornson, marketing and communications coordinator at Bissell Centre.

Click on the map below to zoom in or out on specific local geographic areas in Alberta and find out more about COVID-19 there:

Here is the detailed regional breakdown of active cases updated as of Wednesday. No detailed numbers were made available after Wednesday, but will be provided in future updates:

  • Calgary zone: 6,470, down from 6,555 reported on Tuesday (29,722 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 8,427, down from 8,644 (31,475 recovered).
  • North zone: 1,092, down from 1,121 (5,089 recovered).
  • South zone: 390, down from 412 (4,392 recovered). 
  • Central zone: 1,391, down from 1,462 (4,242 recovered).
  • Unknown: 51, down from 117 (150 recovered).

Find out which neighbourhoods or communities have the most cases, how hard people of different ages have been hit, the ages of people in hospital, how Alberta compares to other provinces and more in: Here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Alberta — and what they mean

What you need to know today in Canada:

Ontario health officials said on Saturday that two confirmed cases of the new coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom have appeared in the province, marking the first confirmed instances in Canada.

Scientists say that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines that are currently being deployed, including those approved in Canada, will not protect against this variant.

It’s believed that the new variant spreads more easily and faster than the original version of the virus, but isn’t believed to be more deadly.

As of 6:30 a.m. ET, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 541,647, with 78,623 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 14,801.

The federal government has launched an $850,000 digital-based ad campaign warning Canadians about the perils of travelling abroad during the pandemic, which could include grounded flights or lax health rules at their destination.

The ads follow a CBC News report in late September that some snowbirds were planning to fly south this winter, despite the government’s advisory to avoid non-essential travel abroad. Since that time, a number of snowbirds have already left Canada.

Ontario began its lockdown as the province reported a two-day total of 4,301 cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. Health Minister Christine Elliott reported 2,005 more cases on Sunday.

The lockdown will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 26 and remain in place until at least Jan. 23, 2021 in the 27 public health units that comprise southern Ontario. In the seven public health units in Ontario’s north, where daily case numbers have been significantly lower, the lockdown is set to expire on Jan. 9, 2021.

Hard-hit Quebec, meanwhile, also went into a provincewide lockdown on Friday, with businesses deemed non-essential ordered to remain closed until at least Jan. 11. No new data was published on Friday or Saturday.

In Saskatchewan, new restrictions took effect last Thursday. Under new measures, which are in place until at least Jan. 15, residents can no longer have guests in their homes and outdoor socializing is capped at 10 people.

In British Columbia, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that while case numbers seem to be levelling, they are still too high.

“We have to remember that people getting sick today were in contact with others days ago, and as much as two weeks ago.”

In Atlantic Canada, new measures meant to prevent any possible surge of COVID-19 over the holiday period have started across Nova Scotia, which announced two new cases on Monday. Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases and announced that the province’s active caseload has dipped to 28.

Self-assessment and supports:

With winter cold and influenza season approaching, Alberta Health Services will prioritize Albertans for testing who have symptoms, and those groups which are at higher risk of getting or spreading the virus.

General asymptomatic testing is currently unavailable for people with no known exposure to COVID-19.

Those who test positive will be asked to use the online COVID-19 contact tracing tool, so that their close contacts can be notified by text message.

The province says Albertans who have returned to Canada from other countries must self-isolate. Unless your situation is critical and requires a call to 911, Albertans are advised to call Health Link at 811 before visiting a physician, hospital or other health-care facility.

If you have symptoms, even mild, you are to self-isolate for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms, until the symptoms have disappeared. 

You can find Alberta Health Services’ latest coronavirus updates here.

The province also operates a confidential mental health support line at 1-877-303-2642 and addiction help line at 1-866-332-2322, both available 24 hours a day. 

Online resources are available for advice on handling stressful situations and ways to talk with children.

There is a 24-hour family violence information line at 310-1818 to get anonymous help in more than 170 languages, and Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence is available at 1-866-403-8000, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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TD Bank CFO Ahmed to head securities unit, move seen as CEO succession play



TD Bank Group on Thursday named Chief Financial Officer Riaz Ahmed chief executive of its securities unit and head of wholesale banking, a move some investors interpreted as a sign he will succeed CEO Bharat Masrani.

For Ahmed, 58, the change marks a return to his TD roots. He began his career at the bank in 1996 as an investment banker in the securities division, following which he served as its CFO and chief administrative officer. He has been part of TD Bank‘s executive team for nine years, and CFO for over five.

“Cross-training in the capital markets role … increases the likelihood of (Ahmed) succeeding Masrani when he retires, but I doubt it would be soon, as that would create unnecessary turnover atop TD Securities,” said Brian Madden, portfolio manager at Goodreid Investment Counsel.

“Maybe Masrani announces his retirement next year (or the following) and leaves early in 2023” or 2024.

Masrani’s compensation arrangements anticipated his retirement in 2020, TD said in its 2019 shareholders meeting proxy circular. But he was granted stock options worth C$1.9 million ($1.5 million), vesting in five years, on the condition that he remain available to serve as CEO throughout that period.

Ahmed replaces Bob Dorrance, who will retire on Sept. 1 after about 16 years at the bank, Canada’s second-biggest lender by market value said in a statement.

When asked about TD’s succession plans, a spokesperson said: “Today we are celebrating Bob Dorrance’s incredible career and accomplishments, and the appointment of top executives to critical, leadership roles.”

At a time when diversity, particularly in executive and board ranks, has come under increased scrutiny, Ahmed’s appointment as CEO would mean TD, the only one of Canada’s six biggest lenders to have a non-Caucasian at its helm, would retain that aspect.

Ahmed’s appointment comes after TD’s wholesale banking unit recorded an 8% revenue decline in the second quarter from a year ago, contributing to the bank’s overall underperformance versus some rivals.

Kelvin Tran, currently executive vice president for enterprise finance, will replace Ahmed as finance chief.

Dorrance, who has headed TD Securities since 2005, will stay on as chairman of TD Securities and serve as special adviser to Masrani.

TD shares were flat at C$87.12 on Thursday afternoon, compared with a 0.2% gain in the Toronto stock index. The shares are up 21% this year, versus a 15% gain in the benchmark.

($1 = 1.2303 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather in Toronto; Additional reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in BengaluruEditing by Nick Zieminski and Matthew Lewis)

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AIB agrees to life and pensions joint-venture with Canada Life



Allied Irish Banks on Wednesday said it would form a joint venture with Canada life as it seeks to plug gaps in its life, savings and wealth products.

The joint venture will be equally owned by Canada Life, a subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco Inc.

“The move to create this joint venture is aligned with AIB’s stated ambition to complete its customerproduct suite and diversify income,” AIB said in a statement.

“Through this strategic initiative AIB intends to offer customers a range of life protection, pensions, savings and investment options enhanced by integrated digital solutions withcontinued access to our qualified financial advisors.”

The Irish lender highlighted Canada Life’s “deep experience” of the Irish bancassurance market through Irish Life Assurance, which is also a subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco.

AIB currently operates under a tied agency distribution agreement with Irish Life, and will enter into a new distribution agreement with the new joint venture company.

Chief Executive Colin Hunt highlighted the need to plug gaps in AIB’s life, savings and wealth products when he set out the bank’s medium-term targets last December.

AIB expects its equity investment in the joint venture will be around 90 million euros ($107.51 million), equating to around 10bps of CET1.($1 = 0.8372 euros)

(Reporting by Graham Fahy;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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Interac: Canada’s Latest Payment Solution Phenomenon



Few can argue that digital payment methods aren’t central to modern-day society. In recent times, increasing numbers of payment solutions have come to the forefront, offering consumers more choice regarding their transaction preferences. Canada, in particular, has embraced a wide-ranging selection of secure, forward-thinking options. Of those available throughout the country, Interac has piqued the interests of local consumers the most. So, let’s look at why this payment solution is an especially popular option throughout Canada. 

Usable Across Various Markets 

It speaks volumes about Interac’s versatility in that it’s usable across a variety of different industries. Since being founded in 1984, the Canadian interbank network has become integral to numerous markets, including local air travel. Air Canada, which has been operating since 1937, has expanded their accepted payment methods, and now passengers can pay for their flights using Interac. According to the airline’s official website, the Interac Online service lets consumers pay for their tickets via the internet directly from their bank account. 

Not only that, but Interac is also available at Walmart. In November 2020, the two organizations partnered together to expand in-store and online payment options. Walmart has adapted well to the digital trend, with American Banker reporting that they’ve opened Interac Flash sale points throughout their stores. 

Source: Unsplash

Aside from the above, Interac has also taken the digital world by storm. Following its rapid rise to prominence, the solution has also altered the online casino industry, with platforms like Genesis Casino now accepting the transaction type. The provider, which features Interac Canadian casino options, uses the popular payment method to enhance transaction speeds of deposits and withdrawals, as well as security. Players can use Interac Online and Interac e-Transfer to make deposits or withdrawals from their desktops or mobiles as the platform is fully optimized. 

A Reflection of Modern-Day Society 

In recent times, Interac recorded a 55 percent increase in transactions between April and August 2020 compared to the same period the previous year, as per BNN Bloomberg. These figures somewhat reflect the current state of e-Commerce and modern consumerism. Following the rise of Interac and other payment methods, it’s now less troublesome for consumers to complete in-store and online purchases. 

Source: PxHere

There’s an ever-growing perception that land-based businesses need to adapt within the digital era and accept forward-thinking payment methods. According to Cision, Interac is of utmost importance to the Canadian economy, and a year-on-year increase in Interac Debit payments of 333 percent reflects that. Not only that, but Interac e-Transfer payments are growing at 52 percent each year. This Interac-oriented trend appears unlikely to fade over the coming years, with the network being selected as the country’s provider for a new real-time payment system, as per Lexology. 

Consumer Habits are Changing 

There can be no doubt that consumerism has changed drastically over the past decade. The popularity of Interac suggests that a cashless future may be on the horizon, with increasing numbers of shoppers enjoying the security of online payment methods. While it’s currently unclear if that will happen, Interac appears to be prevalent for the long run.

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