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Foreign ministers of Canada and Germany say return of turbine calls Putin’s bluff

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MONTREAL — The fact that part of a Russian gas pipeline remains in Germany after it was returned to Europe by Canada reveals the dishonesty of President Vladimir Putin, the Canadian and German foreign ministers said Wednesday.

“We called his bluff,” Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly told reporters in Montreal about the Russian president, at a joint press conference with her German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock. “It is now clear that Putin is weaponizing energy flows to Europe.”

Since Canada allowed the return of a turbine used in the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline, which runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, Russia reduced natural gas supplies to Germany to 20 per cent. The ministers say that shows Putin is using energy as a weapon of war.

“It needed to be clear for the world, so (Putin) could not use the pretext of a turbine stuck in Montreal as the reason for why he was reducing the flow of Nord Stream 1,” Joly said later in the day at an event with Baerbock hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal. “So that’s why we decided to send it back.”

In mid-July, the Liberal government drew criticism for granting Siemens Energy an exemption on sanctions against Russia and allowing a turbine — which had been in Montreal for repairs — to return to Germany and then eventually to Russia for installation in the pipeline.

The Ukrainian government accused Canada of setting a dangerous precedent that risks compromising economic sanctions imposed on Russia for the invasion of Ukraine.

“What we’re seeing right now is Putin was trying to sow division within the alliance, within the G7,” Joly said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz inspected the turbine Wednesday in Germany and said “there are no problems” blocking the part’s return to Russia, apart from missing information from Russia’s state-controlled gas company, Gazprom.

Gazprom last week blamed the cut in gas supplies to Germany on delays to the turbine’s delivery due to western sanctions. The company specifically wants documents from Siemens Energy proving that the turbine isn’t subject to western sanctions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Baerbock said the paperwork is being fixed and accused Putin of attempting to use the turbine issue to divide countries that support Ukraine.

“(Putin) tried to split us,” she said. “He tried to play games with us and now the whole world can see crystal clear that he’s just using energy as a game play.”

Canada has granted exceptions to Siemens Energy for six turbines.

Germany relies almost exclusively on gas for heating, Baerbock said, adding that it was a “mistake” to dependent on Russia for energy.

“This has been a mistake to be so dependent on Russian cheap gas,” she said, adding that her government is committed to phasing out its use of Russian natural gas and will be looking to Canada.

“This partnership has to rely on common rules, on common standards, and this is why, for us, Canada is one of the most important partners,” Baerbock said.

Joly told the chamber of commerce audience that Germany is looking to invest in liquid natural gas projects in Canada, adding that she has met with the Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador governments to discuss hydrogen projects that could also lead to energy exports.

Earlier in the day, the two ministers toured a grain silo at the Port of Montreal. “Canada has increased, this year, our domestic grain production by 30 per cent,” Joly said, adding that wheat production is up seven per cent.

“We are sending mobile grain silos in Ukraine, so that way we don’t lose production,” she said. “We’re sending ships to get the grain where it is needed and we’re increasing our donation to the (UN) World Food Program.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press.

 

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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Ontario reports 72 new COVID-19 deaths as wastewater signals climb once again – CBC.ca

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Ontario is reporting 72 new deaths linked to COVID-19, as wastewater signals are once again on the rise after trending downward for months, according to the latest report from Public Health Ontario.

New data released Thursday from the Ontario Ministry of Health shows the number of people in hospital with the virus climbed from 1,141 this time last week to 1,265 this week. 

The number of people in intensive care with COVID-19 also rose slightly from 129 to 133. Of those, 57 patients require a ventilator to breathe, about the same as last week’s total of 58.

Test positivity on Thursday dropped slightly to 12.5 per cent, down from 13.1 per cent last Thursday.

Meanwhile, the latest report from Public Health Ontario, which is updated every Friday, shows the level of the novel coronavirus seen in Ontario’s wastewater began creeping upward around the first week of September and is estimated to have been climbing since.

That’s after a period of plateau and slow decline following a peak in early July.

Data from Public Health Ontario shows the amount of the novel coronavirus seen in Ontario’s wastewater began creeping upward around the first week of September and are estimated to have been climbing since. (Public Health Ontario)

Wastewater signals have increased in most parts of the province, including in the Greater Toronto Area, with the Central East and West regions seeing the steepest climbs. Central East includes Haliburton Kawartha and Pine Ridge; Peterborough; and Simcoe Muskoka, while Central West includes Brant County; Haldimand-Norfolk; Hamilton and Niagara Region.

The news comes as Ontario opened Omicron-targeted COVID-19 vaccine bookings to all adults Monday.

Last week, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore noted vaccine uptake among Ontario’s youngest age group was lower than expected.

“We have work to do to continue our (official) message,” he told The Canadian Press at the time. “It will accelerate as we head into indoors and head into the fall as we perceive the risk of transmission will increase.”

The most recent wave of the illness to hit Ontario — which started on June 19 and peaked in early August —  is being fuelled largely by Omicron variant BA. 5.

Experts have said reported case counts are a severe underestimate of the actual extent of COVID-19 infections in Ontario. 

Earlier this month, members of Ontario’s since-dissolved science advisory table said they would have advised against the province’s decision to scrap COVID-19 isolation requirements had they been consulted on the move.

On Aug. 31, the province scrapped the mandatory five-day isolation period for those who test positive for COVID-19.

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Canada’s economic activity creeps up, unexpectedly – Al Jazeera English

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The economy grew 0.1 percent in July, compared with a forecast for a 0.1 percent decline, but inflation persists.

Canada’s economic activity unexpectedly edged up in July, data shows, while gross domestic product (GDP) in August was most likely flat, with the surprise gain seen unlikely to change much for the central bank.

The Canadian economy grew 0.1 percent in July, compared with analysts’ forecast for a 0.1 percent decline, Statistics Canada data showed on Thursday. Growth in goods-producing industries more than offset the first decrease in services-producing industries since January.

“The economy fared better than anticipated this summer, but the showing still wasn’t much to write home about,” Royce Mendes, head of macro strategy at Desjardins Group, said in a note.

The slight gain in July and likely lack of growth in August suggest third-quarter annualised GDP growth of about 1 percent, well below the Bank of Canada’s most recent forecast of 2.0 percent, analysts said.

“After a solid first half of the year, momentum appears to be slowing as multi-decade-high inflation and rapidly rising interest rates weigh on the economy,” Benjamin Reitzes, Canadian rates and macro strategist at BMO Economics, said in a note.

The Bank of Canada raised rates by 75 basis points to 3.25 percent earlier this month to fight inflation, which began to cool slightly in July, but is still running at levels not seen in nearly 40 years.

The July GDP data showed oil sands extraction drove growth, jumping 5.1 percent on higher output, with crop production also helping, up 7.2 percent mainly on volumes of wheat and other grains.

Demand for Canadian wheat has increased since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a special military operation, helping push up export volumes.

But Canada’s retail trade sector contracted sharply in July, falling to its lowest level since December 2021, pushed down by a 7.1 percent decline in output at petrol stations, Statscan said, though that likely reversed in August.

Accommodation and food services also contracted in July, driven by less activity at bars and restaurants.

Hot inflation meant the Bank of Canada was likely to increase interest rates at its next decision in late October, but then the game may change, economists said.

“The deceleration in economic momentum is why we see the Bank of Canada only hiking rates once more in October,” Mendes said. Money markets are betting on a rise in October, with one more in December or January to bring the central bank’s policy rate to 4.00 percent.

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Canada matching more donations for Pakistan flood aid, will raise cap to $5M – CTV News

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OTTAWA –

The federal government will extend its matching of donations to help people dealing with catastrophic flooding in Pakistan in hopes the crisis doesn’t fall off the public radar.

“I felt that it wasn’t getting the (media) coverage that a crisis like this deserves,” International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a Thursday interview.

Severe monsoon rains this summer have affected more than 33 million people, many of whom have needed emergency food, water, sanitation and health services.

More than one-third of Pakistan was underwater, including much of its agricultural land, which experts believe will spark a food shortage.

Sajjan said he saw devastating scenes on a visit to the country earlier this month.

“When I was flying over affected areas, you literally could not see the end,” he said.

“Countries that have had the least to do with contributing to climate change are actually now the most greatly affected by it.”

On Sept. 13, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would match up to $3 million in donations made to the Humanitarian Coalition and its dozen member charities.

That matching campaign was due to end on Wednesday.

Sajjan said it will be extended, and the amount is now capped at $5 million.

Ottawa previously committed $30 million of its own spending.

Sajjan said the idea has been to respond to the immediate, interim and long-term needs of the country, to make sure the right amount of aid dollars reach the correct places.

“What we’re doing is funding in chunks, to make sure we’re assessing the needs in a timely basis so the resources can be there,” he said.

“Now we that we have a little bit of breathing space, we are looking at the midterm need assessment.”

Canada will likely fund climate mitigation work in the country once it has recovered, to lower the impact of future floods, Sajjan said.

He noted that Canada helped fund the early-warning system that officials told him was key to saving lives this summer.

That came after massive 2010 floods in Pakistan.

Within a year, the former Harper government pledged $71.8 million for relief efforts, including $46.8 million from donations Ottawa had matched.

When asked why Canada is only matching slightly more than one-tenth that amount, the Humanitarian Coalition said the funding is in line with cost-matching in past crises such as the 2021 earthquake in Haiti.

“To be sure, the match amount is modest, but it does fit within a recent range,” wrote spokeswoman Marg Buchanan.

She said the amounts are based on what humanitarian groups predict people will donate, “influenced by timing, waning media interest and other dominant stories.”

NDP development critic Heather McPherson argued the Liberals have been slow to put up the funding promised for other humanitarian initiatives.

She pointed to unspent funds in Ukraine and for reproductive health elsewhere.

“Their announcements are starting to be a little slim; I don’t think people are feeling very reassured,” McPherson said.

The Conservatives have called on the government to allow cost-matching for more organizations responding to disasters, including the flooding in Pakistan.

“It is easier (for Ottawa) to say that it is going to match a contribution to this big player, as opposed to saying it is going to match donations to all of the organizations that are doing this work,” Garnett Genuis told the Commons this week.

“Organizations tell me that they get calls from previous donors who say they were going to donate to what they were doing, but they actually want to donate to another organization that is getting matched.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.

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