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Global Affairs Canada 'engaging' with staff in Austria following reports of 'Havana syndrome' symptoms – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Global Affairs Canada said it is “engaging” with Canadian officials in Austria following reports that American representatives in Vienna have been experiencing symptoms similar to the mysterious “Havana syndrome.”

Earlier this week, U.S. diplomats, intelligence officials and government staff reported about two dozen cases of symptoms similar to the Havana syndrome, which include nausea, dizziness, headaches and trouble concentrating.

CNN reported earlier this week that the mysterious incidents have forced a handful of American personnel in Vienna to be medically evacuated back to the U.S.

In a statement, Ciara Trudeau, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said that there have been no reports of similar cases among Canadians, but that the agency is “engaging” with staff and other governments on the matter.

“Global Affairs Canada maintains a strict security protocol to respond immediately to any unusual events affecting Canadian diplomats or their families posted abroad,” Trudeau said in the statement.

“We continue to stay in contact with our staff and all other relevant governments in Vienna.”

American diplomats in Cuba first reported unexplained health effects in November 2016. Fourteen Canadians stationed therealso reported symptoms as well.

A report from December 2020 found that the mysterious injuries were likely caused by an attack of “directed” radio energy, though Cuba has denied the report.

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Canada election: several ridings still to close to call – CTV News

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TORONTO / OTTAWA —
While Canadians didn’t have to wait too long on election night to find out who will lead the next government, there are still several individual seats too close to call and it could take a few days to get clear results with mail-in ballots still to be counted.

As of Wednesday evening, nine seats had yet to be called, according to CTVNews.ca’s election tracker, with the Liberals leading in five of the races, the Conservatives leading in one, the Bloc Quebecois leading in one, and the NDP in two.

The number still to be decided won’t affect the overall election result, which saw the Liberals returned with a minority government, the Conservatives the Official Opposition, and both the Bloc and NDP holding enough seats to hold the balance of power when it comes to the Liberals passing key legislation.

But the outcomes of the individual races will have an impact on the people who live in those ridings, and could also end up affecting the outcome of free votes, where members don’t always vote along party lines, as well as the overall demographic breakdown of the House of Commons.

Seat counts can sometimes be seen as a referendum on party leaders, and any last-minute changes to the projected counts will be assessed by the parties as they take stock of their overall electoral showing.

Of course, there are some seats that may hold more symbolic or strategic value for certain parties.

For example, there’s little doubt the Liberals loved winning back the British Columbia seat of Vancouver Granville, which they lost after Jody Wilson-Raybould was expelled from the Liberal caucus over the SNC-Lavalin scandal. She went on to win the seat as an independent in the 2019 federal election, but chose not to run for re-election this year.

CTV News’ Decision Desk declared Liberal Taleeb Noormohamed the winner of the riding on Wednesday evening, beating out NDP candidate Anjali Appadurai by just 258 votes. In Vancouver Granville, 5,359 local mail-in ballot voting kits had been returned to Elections Canada by election day.

Former NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau was hoping to make a political comeback in her home riding of Berthier Maskinongé, and was in a close fight with incumbent Bloc Quebecois MP Yves Perron, but by Wednesday evening, CTV News’ Decision Desk had declared she’d been defeated, by 933 votes.

While it’s not uncommon for some tight races to stretch into the following day after an election, the wild card this year is the record number of mail-in ballots cast due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the latest numbers from Elections Canada, more than 1 million mail-in ballots were returned this year, about 83 per cent—851,213—of which were from people voting in their home ridings. It’s these local mail-in ballots that the agency is still working through.

It’s taking time to get these results because Elections Canada must verify that these voters have not also voted in person, as well as conduct other layers of ballot integrity assessments before these votes can be counted.

The scrutineering process began on Tuesday and the agency has begun to report the results with most expected on Wednesday, though in some ridings it could take until Friday.

The Liberals and NDP are also locking horns in the Toronto riding of Davenport, where incumbent Liberal Julie Dzerowicz leads the NDP’s Alejandra Bravo by 318 votes.

Also hanging on a razor’s edge is the race in Sault Ste. Marie, where Liberal incumbent Terry Sheehan leads Conservative Sonny Spina by just 55 votes, and where 1,660 local mail-in ballots having been returned.

There is still one seat in Edmonton too close to definitively call, which represents a potential defeat of a Conservative incumbent.

In Edmonton Griesbach, NDP candidate Blake Desjarais is leading Conservative Kerry Diotte by 1,006 votes, in a riding where 1,482 mail-in ballots have been received.

Next door, in Edmonton Centre, CTV News’ Decision Desk declared Liberal Randy Boissonnault the winner on Wednesday night, with 616 votes over Conservative James Cumming.

To stay on top of the results as they continue to be reported in real time from Elections Canada, bookmark our live results map.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

Ontario and New Brunswick rolled out vaccine passport systems on Wednesday that require people who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine to show proof of vaccination before entering non-essential indoor spaces. 

The programs require people who are eligible for the vaccines to show proof of vaccination at non-essential businesses where large numbers of people gather, including dine-in restaurants, gyms, sports events and clubs.

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, urged people to be patient as workers and businesses adjust to the new requirement. Moore said he hopes the new system will help boost vaccination rates — particularly among 20- to 39-year-olds, who currently have the highest rate of infection in Ontario.

Proof-of-vaccination systems are becoming more common across Canada, as governments work to boost vaccination rates amid increasing COVID-19 numbers. However, the systems are not without controversy — some view them as an infringement on individual rights, others argue that the systems put undue burdens on businesses that have already been hit hard by pandemic closures and ever-changing regulations.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford acknowledged the divisions around vaccine mandates at a news conference on Wednesday, but he said the province can’t afford to shut down again or see another sudden surge in cases.

The vaccine certificate system is a temporary and exceptional measure, Ford said, as he again urged people to be patient as businesses adapt.

WATCH | Ford says vaccine passports will help keep businesses open:

Ontario vaccine certificate ‘temporary and exceptional,’ says premier

10 hours ago

Ontario Premier Doug Ford acknowledged that vaccine certificates are a ‘divisive issue,’ but says they will help keep business open through the fourth wave of COVID-19. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press) 1:01

Ford said the province would not use the program for “one day longer” than needed.

But when asked later at the news conference about what metrics he would use to determine when the vaccine passport requirements would be lifted, he didn’t offer specifics. The premier instead said the decision, when it came, would be made based on advice from the chief medical officer of health and the province’s science table.

Ontario on Wednesday reported 463 new cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths.

The systems put in place by officials in Ontario and New Brunswick allow for medical exemptions for people with documentation from their health-care provider.

However, experts in New Brunswick tell CBC that medical exemptions are rare because there’s little to no reason people physically can’t get vaccinated.

People wait in line at a mass vaccination and testing clinic for COVID-19 at the Moncton Coliseum in Moncton, N.B., on Wednesday, as new proof of vaccination rules take effect. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

In announcing New Brunswick’s new rules last week, Premier Blaine Higgs said the province’s original target of having 75 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated is no longer enough with the new highly transmissible variants. The goal is now 90 per cent.

Also starting Wednesday, New Brunswickers are once again required to wear a mask in all indoor public spaces.

The province reported 76 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, a new record high for daily cases. It also reported one additional death. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell has said the province is on a trajectory to have 100 new cases confirmed per day, every day.

From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:45 p.m. ET


What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | Alberta premier shuffles health minister as hospitals near capacity: 

Kenney shuffles health minister as hospitals near capacity

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney named former labour minister Jason Copping the new health minister after shuffling Tyler Shandro out of the role as the province’s hospitals near capacity and Kenney faces growing calls for his own resignation. 2:01


What’s happening around the world

German Health Minister Jens Spahn gives a press statement in Berlin as the country changed its approach to financial support for people who are not vaccinated. (Odd Anderson/AFP/Getty Images)

As of Wednesday evening, more than 229.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.

In Europe, Germany will stop sick pay for unvaccinated people who have to go into quarantine because of COVID-19. Previously, Germans could claim for income lost due to having to go into quarantine after returning from abroad or coming into contact with a positive case.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said the move was a matter of “fairness,” arguing that by the time the new rule comes into force on Nov. 1, everyone who wants a vaccine will have had an opportunity to get one. Those who choose not to “will need to bear responsibility for this then, including the financial costs,” he said.

Germany has fully vaccinated 63.4 per cent of its population. The government has said it wants to achieve a vaccination rate of 75 per cent to prevent a sharp rise in cases during the winter months.

In the Asia-Pacific region, officials in the northeast China city of Harbin say national level health officials have been sent to the city to deal with what may be a coronavirus outbreak. The city of 9.5 million people reported three infection cases on Wednesday, a day after discovering a first case of community transmission.

A medical worker collects a sample to be tested for COVID-19 in Harbin, in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province, on Wednesday. (AFP/Getty Images)

After the initial finding, authorities started mass testing and closed schools. The city also ordered businesses such as mahjong parlours, cinemas and gyms to shut. City authorities say residents must display a negative virus test to be able to leave for only essential travel. Otherwise, people are being told to stay home.

In the Middle East, as coronavirus infections plummet and vaccinations accelerate in the United Arab Emirates, authorities have loosened a long-standing face mask mandate.

The Gulf Arab sheikhdom said Wednesday that residents no longer need to wear masks while exercising outdoors or visiting beaches and pools in the country. Those who receive medical or beauty treatments may also forgo the mask. However, face masks will still be required in indoor spaces such as shopping malls and public transportation.

WATCH | Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine shows promising results for kids under 12: 

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine appears promising for kids under 12

Pfizer says its latest clinical trial data for its COVID-19 vaccine shows promising results in children under 12, raising the hopes of many parents with unvaccinated children. 2:01

In the Americas, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, just back from the United Nations, isolated himself at home on Wednesday and cancelled a trip after his health minister tested positive for COVID-19 and had to stay in quarantine in New York. 

Bolsonaro defied UN rules that asked all those attending the assembly be inoculated against the coronavirus and was the only member of his entourage in New York who has not been vaccinated. Before travelling to the United States, he said he believed his antibody count from a bout with COVID-19 protected him better than a vaccine.

Meanwhile, United Airlines officials said 97 per cent of its U.S. employees are fully vaccinated, with less than a week to go before United employees face a deadline to get the shots or get fired. The Chicago-based airline has 67,000 U.S. employees.

In Africa, officials with the World Health Organization’s Africa region said this week that 14 countries on the continent had reached a goal of fully vaccinating 10 per cent of their populations by the end of September. But the same health officials noted that a “crippling vaccine supply shortage” remains a major issue for countries across Africa.

-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 6:45 p.m. ET

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Evolution of Canada as a Modern Payments Leader

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With Silicon Valley taking most of the tech headlines from the North American continent, Japan being regularly publicized for its leaps in robotic technologies, and the UAE constantly investing in the latest tech, it doesn’t come as a surprise that many forget about Canada as a leader in the world.

However, just because Canada doesn’t command international headlines doesn’t mean that the country hasn’t proven to be incredibly tech-savvy, especially in the realms of payments and money. As a developed market, Canada has long boasted one of the highest credit card penetration rates in the world, at 83 percent (17 percent higher than the United States).

This is the start of a trend that will likely see Canada become the example of how payments around the world will take place, especially as it’s reported that the country will likely be the first to banish banknotes. Already, over 80 percent of Canadian bank transactions are made digitally, with there being many solutions available to the population. Yet, there’s more to come from the world-leading market in modern payments.

Rapid adoption of innovative cashless payment services

 

Source: Pixabay

While VISA, MasterCard, and American Express still form the foundations of much of Canada’s payments preferences, eWallet and mobile payment solutions have become incredibly prevalent. Both PayPal and Apple Pay boast a strong customer base across the country, with a 2019 survey indicating that over 20 percent of Canadians had the PayPal app, with over 15 percent installing the Apple Pay app.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that, due to the influx of these once-termed ‘alternative’ payment methods, new industries have quickly embraced them to appeal to Canadians. This isn’t anywhere more apparent than with the online casino industry, with the very best accepting PayPal as well as Skrill, Neteller, Trustly, and the two card providers. By offering these safe and popular methods, players are happy to try out thousands of online games.

PayPal looks to be positioning itself as the leader of a cashless Canada, and yet it’ll be expanding its offering even further soon. In September 2021, PayPal paid US$2.7 billion to acquire Japanese online payments firm Paidy, which specializes in buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) and payments without credit cards. This could further enhance its appeal to the Canadian population.

Growing into an ever-more digital space for money

Source: Unsplash

Despite the rate of adoption of the newer or tech-savvy payment methods among customers, many still experience payment friction. It was found that over half of all Canadians have experienced a vendor not accepting their preferred payment method or there being a limit on the amount that can be transferred with any one purchase. This is why PayPal’s entry into BNPL could enhance its scope in Canada.

The BNPL market is tipped to be worth nearly US$4 trillion by the end of this decade, making it a powerhouse option in eCommerce. It will certainly become popular in less-developed markets, where people want more expensive goods than they can afford outright. However, it also has its place in a market like Canada, which will make all tiers of purchase more accessible to all, particularly if the PayPal rollout gains traction.

Another digital area of finance that Canada is seen to be particularly smitten with is that of cryptocurrencies. The government has created a remarkably crypto-friendly regulatory landscape, helping all kinds of coins to know where they stand, appeal to Canadians, and be used across the country. It’s said that around 1.2 million people (3.2 percent of the population) own cryptocurrencies in Canada already.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that Canada is tipped to become the first cashless nation in the world, particularly with the adoption rate of eWallets and the embrace of even more modern solutions.

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