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Food processors in Canada boost employee pay amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Some of Canada’s food processors joined other companies in increasing pay for hourly staff working hard to ensure the country’s food supply remains strong during the coronavirus pandemic.

“In this global crisis, we are compelled to look beyond our business and do what we can to support the many dedicated people who continue to deliver the critical services we depends on,” said Maple Leafs Foods Inc. CEO Michael McCain in a statement.

 

The food processor announced Monday it would start paying its hourly employees at production and distribution facilities an extra $80 per week. That bonus is in addition to regular and overtime pay.

The bonus comes as Maple Leaf also announced $2 million to support emergency food relief efforts and $2.5 million for a new fund to provide personal support to front-line health providers.

 

Cargill Ltd., a Winnipeg-based merchandiser and processor that employs more than 8,000 people in the country, will also dole out additional pay.

Cargill will pay an extra $2 per hour, with a bonus of $500 to employees who complete weekly shifts over eight consecutive weeks, starting Monday, said United Food and Commercial Workers Locals 175 and 633 in a statement. The two chapters represent more than 70,000 employees in sectors including grocery retail and industrial food preparation.

 

“Workers in food manufacturing are key at this time to maintaining the food supply chain,” said Shawn Hanger, president of UFCW Local 175, in a statement.

The employees at these two manufacturers’ facilities “have been under stressful conditions during this crisis and these measures will go a long way to providing security for them.”

Both manufacturers have also made improvements to employee safety while working, the union said, including banning visitors and providing more space to improve social distancing.

The two locals continue to reach out to all employers of the members it represents “to have them compensate employees properly, provide pay security for those that need to be off work, and enact stringent health and safety protocols for everyone’s safety.”

Mondelez Canada — a Toronto-based snack manufacturer that makes products from brands including Cadbury, Maynards and Triscuit — announced Monday a premium pay program for Canadian employees.

Workers will see their pay increase by $2 hour or $125 per week, depending on how the employee is paid, until April 30, according to a statement. The program includes workers who make, ship or sell the company’s goods.

The company employs 2,600 workers.

 

Manufacturers aren’t alone in raising wages for those in the food industry working to help keep Canadians fed as many other businesses shut down.

On the weekend, Loblaw executive chairman Galen Weston said his company was temporarily increasing compensation for its store and distribution centre employees by approximately 15 per cent retroactive to March 8.

Sobeys and Safeway Canada have also announced a temporary program that will see employees receive an additional $50 a week, plus those working more than 20 hours a week will receive an extra $2 an hour for all hours over 20, retroactive to March 8.

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Canadian real estate markets hit hard by pandemic – Jimmys Post

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Vancouver real estate agent David Hutchinson pulls out some bright blue medical gloves and tugs them onto his hands before entering a condo that’s coming onto the market.

“It’s uncharted territory, a completely different ballgame, and we’re learning everything on the go,” he said as he got his cellphone ready to do a virtual showing from the empty unit.

Welcome to selling real estate during a pandemic.

While Hutchison continues to work, albeit with adjustments, Canada’s real estate industry appears to be heading into a deep freeze despite the warming spring weather. Though sales figures started off relatively strong in March in many parts of the country, they fell swiftly as the COVID-19 pandemic grew and stricter protective measures were put in place.

Greater Vancouver’s real estate board, for example, released figures showing sales for the month overall were up 46 per cent compared to last March.

But by the end of the month, weekly statistics showed a dramatic slowdown, falling by about half compared to the first part of the month.

It was the same in Toronto, where home sales were up 49 per cent in the first 14 days of March compared to last year, but they plummeted by 16 per cent as the month closed. 

This graphic shows how real estate sales tumbled in Toronto’s 416 area code as the epidemic took hold. (Scott Ingram)

Hutchison thinks April “is just going to fall off a cliff.”

Toronto chartered accountant and real estate agent Scott Ingram agrees. He expects April sales to be “far below historical averages.” 

“Not in my time watching the Toronto real estate market have I seen sales slow right down as quickly as this,” he wrote in an email exchange. “Not even back in April 2017, when the Ontario government brought in its Ontario Fair Housing Plan with the 15 per cent non-resident speculation tax,” among other measures. 

Lower prices predicted

Hutchison is worried values will fall along with the number of transactions.

“We don’t know where prices are going to go. I mean, why would you buy something now if you perceive prices are going to go down in the future, which may very well be.”

An April 3 report by RBC predicts housing sales could fall to a 20-year low, dropping 30 per cent over the coming year, and prices will indeed go down, in the short term at least.

With millions of people suddenly turning to financial aid from the government, personal finances that looked healthy a few months ago are suddenly shrouded in doubt.

WATCH | Answering viewer questions about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit

CBC News Network’s Carole MacNeil spoke with personal finance expert Lesley-Anne Scorgie to answer viewer questions about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). 13:14

“In a matter of weeks or months, surging unemployment and the market’s illiquidity will compel a growing number of tight-squeezed sellers to make price concessions,” wrote RBC’s Robert Hogue.

Legal headaches for buyers and landlords

Across Canada about 65,000 homes traded hands in the first two months of the year, and many of those sales are now closing in a completely different environment than when the deals were made.

Vancouver real estate lawyer Ken Pazder is already seeing the fallout.

He says some clients are wondering if they have to close on deals made before the pandemic.

He has to tell them that, under the law, a deal is still a deal.

“You’re not going to be able to say ‘I don’t want to close because I’ve just lost my job, I don’t want to close because my company is shutting down or I have to shut down my business.’ That’s not going to be a legal excuse that would fly in the courts.”

In addition, his landlord clients are facing other legal issues, including tenants who suddenly aren’t paying rent.

Further complicating the situation is so-called vacant possession — a legal obligation to ensure that a sold property is in a state fit to be occupied, which can include requiring tenants to vacate when the new owner takes possession.

A moratorium on evictions in B.C. means those provisions can’t be enforced in all situations, leaving some new owners unable to access homes they have purchased.

Alberta hit by double whammy

Alberta markets could be facing the strongest head winds.

On top of the pandemic, the province has been slammed by additional layoffs caused by dramatically lower oil prices.

Calgary real estate agent Alicia Ryan says there are always some people in circumstances that force them to buy or sell, but others should consider waiting. 

“Not everybody needs to sell right now, and if you don’t need to sell, we’re telling our clients hold off until things settle down a bit.”

Calgary real estate agent Alicia Ryan says the city is being hit by crashing oil prices as well as the pandemic. (Submitted by Alicia Ryan)

RBC’s Hogue says Calgary is in a tough spot. “We believe property values are at risk of a more sizable decline.

The bright spot in all of this appears to be a long way off, with Hogue predicting an eventual rebound that will come in “stages,” fuelled by low interest rates and pent-up demand from buyers currently on the sidelines.

“The timing and speed of the recovery is uncertain at this point.”

In the meantime, agents are still showing properties, but any potential buyers who want to look will likely have to sign a waiver acknowledging they may be exposing themselves to COVID-19 and accept risks that include illness and death.

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B.C. to require people returning to Canada to have self-isolation plan – Global News

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The B.C. government now legally requires all travellers entering B.C. from outside Canada to submit a 14-day self-isolation plan, as part of federal laws to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“As we welcome British Columbians back home, we must stay vigilant and do everything we can,” Premier John Horgan told a news conference on Wednesday.

“As we follow the advice and guidance of our provincial health officer, it’s also important to take care of one another. By supporting people through a self-isolation plan after international travel, we will keep people safe and help flatten the curve.”






6:22
B.C. Premier John Horgan addresses province in televised speech


B.C. Premier John Horgan addresses province in televised speech

The measure is in place effective immediately. You can view the form to submit your plan here.

The plan, which can be submitted online or completed in person on arrival to B.C., must show that returning travellers have supports in place to safely self-isolate for two weeks, such as ordering groceries to be delivered instead of going to buy them at a store.

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Starting Friday, provincial officials will be on hand at Vancouver International Airport and major land border crossings to make sure the plans are complete and assist anyone who needs it.

If an airline traveller arrives at YVR and an adequate self-isolation plan is proposed but needs additional support, the person may be taken or directed to an accommodation site to begin quarantine until any outstanding details of their plan are included.

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Horgan did not have any details on the location of the quarantine areas, and said he’s working with the federal government to coordinate.

If a traveller arrives at a major land border crossing and needs help to create a plan, they will be sent directly home to start self-isolating, with a check-in from officials to follow.


READ MORE:
B.C. premier extends state of emergency, asks people to ‘re-commit’ to COVID-19 fight

The province has repeatedly raised concerns about having enough resources to communicate and enforce public-health orders to those arriving in B.C.

A couple in B.C.’s Cowichan Valley refused to self-isolate since recently returning from international travel. The mayor of District of North Cowichan said the municipality does not have the power to enforce the federal Quarantine Act — that’s up to the RCMP.






2:04
Federal government imposes mandatory quarantine for returning travelers


Federal government imposes mandatory quarantine for returning travelers

The act, which went into effect March 25, states that anyone returning to Canada from another country must immediately self-isolate for 14 days, with penalties of fines or jail time.

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Staff with the Canada Border Services Agency were to inform all returning Canadians and permanent residents of the new orders and forbid them from making any stops on their way home.

On Wednesday, Global News has learned there are currently no public health officials stationed at Canada-U.S. land border crossings to assist in screening for COVID-19.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Coronavirus: Canadian-born Second World War Dam Buster dies from COVID-19 – Global News

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Ken Sumner, Canadian-born veteran of the legendary Dam Busters squadron, who spent almost 200 hours in aircraft fighting Nazi Germany and who was decorated for his devotion to duty, died from the novel coronavirus on April 2.

He was 96 years old.

“He never said much. He was a quiet guy, but when he spoke every single person listened,” said Warwick Shepherd, Sumner’s grandson.

“He was immensely proud and a dogged fighter.”


READ MORE:
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Sumner died in hospital in the U.K. last week, shortly after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Shepherd remembers his granddad’s love for his kids or grandkids and his fierce determination.

Shepherd, speaking via Skype from Chester, U.K., told Global News Sumner ran five marathons when he was in his 70s and toured the Great Wall of China in his 80s.

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“He didn’t realize it wasn’t a race every day, so he would set off and run ahead of everyone, not thinking it was actually a sightseeing tour.”

Shepherd said Sumner rarely spoke about his war service.

“Like most veterans, he was very humble and very quiet about it.”

Shepherd does know that his granddad was once part of the most celebrated bombing squadron in the Second World War.


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Ken Sumner was born in Prairie River, Saskatchewan on May 5, 1923. His own father emigrated to Canada to start a farm after fighting in the first World War, but had to return to England during the Great Depression.

Sumner had originally planned to be a doctor, but he left school when the war began. He enlisted, age 18, in the RAF.

He became a bomb aimer on the famed Avro Lancaster aircraft. It was the aimer’s role to tell the pilot the heading when on a bombing run and when to release the payload.

The aimer also took the ‘bomb photograph,’ which served as proof of the plane’s success.

He joined the No. 44 Rhodesia Squadron, which was named in honour of that British colony’s contribution to the Allied war effort.

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An Avro Lancaster bomber practicing for the Dam Buster raid.

An Avro Lancaster bomber practicing for the Dam Buster raid.


Supplied / Ted Barris

The determination, which is grandson recognized even late into Sumner’s life, was on full display during his time in a Lancaster.

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According to a copy of the London Gazette from 1944, Sumner was hit by shrapnel in the hand and arm while en route to a target. He hid the extent of the injury from the pilot because he was afraid the pilot would return to the U.K.

Sumner completed the mission and only told the crew how badly he was hurt when they were once again over British soil.

For his devotion to duty he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.

“The distinguished flying medal, or DFM, was very significant,” Ted Barris, author of ‘Dam Busters: Canadian Airmen and the Secret Raid against Nazi Germany, said.

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“If you were a sergeant pilot or a gunner and not as involved in the strategic and tactical aspects of the attack, you might be overlooked,” he explained.

“But to be noticed, to be recognized and to receive the DFM is very important.”

Shortly after the mission on which he was injured, he joined the legendary 617 Squadron, better known as the ‘Dam Busters.’


READ MORE:
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The Dam Buster raid was a daring attack on the heart of Nazi Germany’s industrial heartland — a series of dams along the Ruhr River.

The plan, officially known as ‘Operation: Chastise,’ sent a squadron of Lancaster bombers — crewed by pilots from all over the Commonwealth — zooming at treetop level through a river valley at full speed so they could literally bounce a specially-designed bomb on the water over torpedo nets and into the dams.

Barris said there wasn’t another raid like it.

“For these crews to come down at 30 metres above the reservoir, and drop this bomb at 375 kilometres an hour, spinning 500 revolutions per minute backwards, with absolutely precise navigational piloting, wireless radio operating, was a miracle,” he said.

Barris noted that Lancasters were designed to bomb from 25- or 30,000 feet (about 7,600 to 9,100m).

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“For them to fly 100 feet off the deck where the radar couldn’t see them, essentially — we talk about flying under the radar, this is where the term initiated.”

Two of the dams were destroyed and more were damaged. The loss of hydroelectric power and flooding of military facilities hindered the Nazi war machine.


READ MORE:
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Barris, speaking over Skype from Uxbridge, Ont., said the success of the raid came at a crucial time for the Allies.

“At that point in the war, at the end of 1942 and early ‘43, morale was at a very low ebb on the Commonwealth side,” he explained.

He pointed to the evacuation at Dunkirk, when the Nazis beat the Allied forces back to the North Channel and off of mainland Europe; the disastrous Dieppe raid, in which more than 900 Allied soldiers perished; and the Pearl Harbour attack as reasons why the prospects of defeating Adolf Hitler seemed so dim.

The Dam Buster raid, says Barris, was a needed victory, but while the attack was a success, he stressed, it wasn’t strategically or tactically critical.

“The dams raid was not a knockout punch —  it didn’t deliver the coup de grace to industry in Nazi production of war weaponry,” he said.

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“But at a crucial time in the war when there was nothing really to crow about in terms of Allied victories, it was an Allied victory.”


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Sumner joined 617 Squadron after the legendary raid and after the Dam Busters nom du guerre was officially bestowed. That meant that any member of the squadron was a Dam Buster.

The 617 continued as a specialist precision bombing unit for the rest of the war and was sent on many more raids with unique bombs.

According to Sumner’s daughter, Lorelle Shepherd, he took part in many high-profile attacks with the Dam Busters, bombing Hamburg and Dresden and using other famous munitions like the ‘Tall Boy’ and ‘Grand Slam’ bombs.

“The Dam Busters, to their credit, not only took out the dams in ’43, but were involved in all the major operations in Bomber Command following that, right to the end of the war,” Barris said.

It was as a Dam Buster in 1944 when Sumner met Phyllis “Rennie” Reynolds, of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). They married less than two years later and later had three children.

Rennie passed away in 2015.

Ken Sumner and his wife Phyllis “Rennie” Reynolds in an undated photo.

Ken Sumner and his wife Phyllis “Rennie” Reynolds in an undated photo.


Supplied / Warwick Shepherd

Shepherd said his granddad was always very proud of his Canadian roots and told Global News that he wanted his connected to the country to be highlighted at his funeral.

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“What we’re hoping to do at his funeral next week is drape not only the Union Jack flag over the coffin, which is afforded to veterans,” Shepherd said, “but also the Canadian flag as well, because that’s what he wanted.”

Sumner had wanted half of his ashes spread near Prairie River.

Shepherd said he looked up to his granddad and that his dedication to public service is needed now during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think we can look to that generation,” he said, [showing us] a way that we can really work together and get through this.”

Shepherd said a small service will take place next week in order to and a larger one, with all of the military honours due his father, will happen next year after the pandemic ends.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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