OTTAWA — The head of a union representing Canada’s customs and immigration officers says chronic staffing shortages mean long waits at the border won’t necessarily disappear when use of the controversial ArriveCan app soon becomes optional.
Mark Weber, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, warned Tuesday that if travel volumes start to increase substantially there will be “significant delays” at Canada’s border points.
Weber spoke at a House of Commons committee meeting looking at the ArriveCan app, which has been used for providing travel and public health information before and after people enter Canada.
The cabinet order mandating vaccine requirements and use of ArriveCan for incoming travellers expires at the end of Friday and the government says it will not be renewed.
Weber said the Canada Border Services Agency needs thousands more officers to fulfil its mandate.
He urged the government to hire additional staff to keep goods and people flowing across the border, not rely on technology like the “ill-designed” ArriveCan app.
“As far as border officers are concerned, the last months have shown that ArriveCan fails to facilitate cross-border travel, while doing very little to address the severe gaps in border security that are plaguing our country.”
Weber said it was part of a pattern of overreliance on automated technology that senselessly sets aside security considerations.
“What I urge the government and the agency to do now is to turn their attention to the severe deficit in personnel afflicting border services throughout the country,” he said. “The reality is really bleak.”
He suggested the agency cannot adequately curb the smuggling of dangerous goods, despite the best efforts of officers.
At some of the busiest land border crossings this summer, the border agency often had little choice but to choose between properly staffing commercial screening or traveller operations, he added.
Duty-free stores at the land border across Canada were forced into almost complete closure at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Barbara Barrett, executive director of the Frontier Duty Free Association.
“We were, without exaggeration, the hardest hit of the hardest hit,” she told the committee.
In recent months, while Canada’s economy was recovering, sales at duty-free stores remained considerably lower than pre-pandemic levels, she said, attributing the slump to federal restrictions and mandatory use of the ArriveCan app.
Barrett said many U.S. seniors found the ArriveCan app too much of a challenge and simply stayed away, while others did not have a smartphone on which to use the app or needed help from store staff to fill in the required information.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2022.
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
Bank of Canada raises key interest rate to 4.25 per cent, its highest since 2008 – CTV News
The Bank of Canada has raised its overnight rate by 50 basis points to 4.25 per cent, marking its seventh rate hike in nine months. The last time the bank’s policy rate was this high was in January 2008.
The inflation rate remained high at 6.9 per cent in October, well above the bank’s 2 per cent target. Higher gas prices put upward pressure on the cost of most goods and services, according to the Consumer Price Index released by Statistics Canada last month.
The bank says the economy continued to operate in excess demand during the third quarter and the labour market in Canada remained tight. With unemployment remaining at historic lows, Statistics Canada reported average hourly wages rose by 5.6 per cent year-over-year in October.
The bank says tighter monetary policy is affecting domestic demand in the Canadian economy, with declines in the housing market and consumption moderating during the third quarter. Since its monetary report in October, the bank continues to expect economic growth to stall through the end of this year and into the first half of 2023.
“The November GDP data showed us that economic activity in Canada had already started to shrink,” said Sheila Block, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “Given that slowdown, any hopes for a soft landing have been crushed by today’s rate hikes.”
During a press conference following the bank’s last rate announcement on Oct. 27, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem signalled “the tightening phase will draw to a close, we are getting closer, but we aren’t there yet.”
On Wednesday, the bank did not rule out further rate increases to tackle inflation.
“Looking ahead, Governing Council will be considering whether the policy interest rate needs to rise further to bring supply and demand back into balance and return inflation to target,” reads the release.
However, experts think it will be difficult for the bank to raise rates during a period of low growth.
“It will be very hard for a central bank to raise interest rates when the economy is in a recession,” said Kevin Page, Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy President and CEO. “I think it is highly probable that the central bank will not need to raise interest rates in the short term (next three to six months).”
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre blamed the cost of living crisis on the federal government’s increased spending during the pandemic.
“It’s another uppercut for Canadians,” said Poilievre. “It’s all because of the inflationary deficits and spending of Justin Trudeau.”
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called for other measures to help combat inflation.
“The federal government has to do more to look at the solutions around inflation,” said Singh during a press conference in Ottawa. “Some of those solutions include acknowledging that high profits in the corporate sector — corporate greed — is contributing to the cost of living going up.”
In the House of Commons, Associate Minister of Finance Randy Boissonnault defended his government’s policies to address the increased cost of living.
“The bank is doing their job. We’re doing our job by making sure we have the fiscal fire power to face what’s going to come,” he said during Question Period. “We’re helping Canadians to buy a new home, we’re advancing the payments for worker benefits and we’re also making sure student loan interest gets removed forever.”
The next policy rate announcement is expected on Jan. 25, 2023.
Media shunning transparency law due to worsening delays, journalist says
The access law allows journalists and others who pay a $5 fee to request documents — from internal emails and expense claims to briefing memos and studies — but it has long been criticized as antiquated and poorly administered.
Federal agencies are supposed to respond within 30 days or provide valid reasons why they need more time to process a request.
The law has not been significantly updated since its introduction almost 40 years ago, and many users complain of lengthy delays as well as heavily blacked-out documents or full denials in response to their applications.
Beeby, an independent journalist who spent much of his career at The Canadian Press, says bureaucrats now realize they face a much bigger blowback from releasing information than from withholding it — and the law provides a rich menu of excuses to keep things buried.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.
Google releases Canada’s top searches of 2022
From serious news stories to fun diversions, Canadians have done a lot of Google searches this year.
The internet search engine released its list of the most viral web searches in Canada for 2022.
Here are the Top Search Trends this year:
- World Cup
- Queen Elizabeth
- Betty White
- Bob Saget
- Anne Heche
- Johnny Depp
- Will Smith
“Over the last couple of years, Canadians were facing a lot of uncertainty. This year was all about supporting each other and embracing the new normals,” said Google trends expert Habiq Ali.
“Wordle was the number one top trending search term in Canada. But it was also the number one top trending search term around the world, so this web-based word game has really taken the world by storm.”
Top Canadian News Search Trends:
- Rogers outage
- Lisa LaFlamme
- U.S. Midterm Elections
- Saskatchewan stabbings
- World Cup 2022
- Oscars 2022
- Freedom Convoy 2022
Canadians weren’t just Googling games and current news events, they were also asking ‘Why?’
- Why is Russia attacking Ukraine?
- Why is Rogers down?
- Why did Will slap Chris?
- Why is Ukraine not in NATO?
- Why is there a formula shortage?
- Why is gas so expensive right now?
- Why are truckers protesting?
- Why is there a Tylenol shortage?
- Why is cryptocurrency going down?
- Why did Liz Truss resign?
Another question they asked was ‘how:’
- How to watch the World Cup
- How to do a rapid COVID test?
- How to help Ukraine?
- How to get a vaccine QR code?
- How to create an NFT?
- How to pronounce Kyiv?
- How to evolve Charcadet?
- How to “respec” in Elden Ring?
- How to evolve Cosmog in Pokémon Go?
- How to pronounce Qatar?
Canadians were also heavily plugged into pop culture and entertainment. From the infamous Will Smith Oscars slap to the Johnny Depp defamation trial, here were the top celebrities, movies and shows of the year:
- Johnny Depp
- Will Smith
- Amber Heard
- Chris Rock
- Adam Levine
- King Charles
- Jada Pinkett Smith
- Julia Fox
- Bruce Willis
- Mary J. Blige
- Top Gun
- The Batman
- Thor: Love and Thunder
- Turning Red
- Black Adam
- Everything Everywhere All at Once
- Don’t Worry Darling
Top TV Series
- Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story
- Stranger Things
- Inventing Anna
- The Watcher
- House of the Dragon
- Moon Knight
- The Boys
- The Summer I Turned Pretty
It was also a very busy year for sports fans with the Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.
Top Sports Searches
- World Cup
- Olympic medal count
- Calgary Flames
- CFL scores
- T20 World Cup 2022
- Asia Cup 2022
- Canada Soccer
- Golden State Warriors
- Indian Wells tennis
- Guy Lafleur
- Novak Djokovic
- Antonio Brown
- Serena Williams
- Eileen Gu
- Kamila Valieva
- Felix Auger Aliassime
- Mitchell Miller
- Johnny Gaudreau
- Kirby Dach
“It’s a really interesting way for us to look back at the year and see what inspired us and what intrigued us,” Ali told Global News.
“From a social perspective and from a political perspective, it kind of just shows us what’s top of mind for Canadians this year.”
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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