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Growing vaccine mandates reveal split in Canadian labour movement – CTV News

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TORONTO —
The head of Canada’s largest private sector labour union has a blunt message for Unifor staff: Get vaccinated or find another job.

The union recently advised its 425 staff membersthat they will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence until they get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“And if they don’t get vaccinated within a reasonable period of time, well then that’s fine,” said Jerry Dias. “They can work for another organization. I’m not messing around with this.”

Dias also has a warning for Unifor members who are holding out against being vaccinated, saying they could end up losing their jobs if their employer adopts a vaccine mandate.

“If people are terminated because they make the decision that they’re not going to be vaccinated, then our lawyers are saying to us that they will stay terminated,” Dias said in an interview.

The growing number of vaccine mandates in the public and private sectors have exposed a fault line in Canada’s labour movement.

Canadian National Railway Co. and WestJet Airlines are among the latest large employers to announce their vaccination policies, following an Aug. 13 directive from Ottawa that requires all employees in federally regulated industries to be vaccinated.

Both railways and airlines are members of that group, which also includes banks, telecommunications companies and employees of Crown corporations.

Montreal-based CN will require all employees in Canada, contractors, consultants, agents, suppliers and anyone who accesses its Canadian properties to be vaccinated as of Nov. 1. It said requests for medical or religious exemptions will be considered on an individual basis.

Calgary-based WestJet’s mandate is effective Oct. 30. The airline said it will accommodate employees who are unable to be vaccinated but those who fail to attest their vaccination status by Sept. 24 or achieve full-vaccination status by Oct. 30 will face unpaid leave or termination.

Like Air Canada, WestJet is not providing COVID-19 testing as an alternative to vaccination.

Unifor’s executive committee voted unanimously to support vaccine mandates, and Ontario unions for elementary and secondary teachers have voiced their support for mandatory vaccinations in schools.

A pro-mandate position in the context of a pandemic is not surprising given the union’s duty to protect the health and safety of its members, says Alison Braley-Rattai, assistant professor of labour studies at Brock University.

“In a different context, however, that could change,” she wrote in an email.

“For example, if your employer wanted you to be vaccinated against some non-transmissible disease to reduce the risk of you being absent from work due to illness, a union would likely oppose such a policy.”

Whether employees should face job loss is also an open question given that we don’t know how things will look a year from now, she said.

“A union could readily argue that termination is an extreme response to a mandate that may end up being temporary, and that the worst thing one should face is a temporary unpaid leave.”

Unions opposed to vaccine mandates include the Toronto Police Association and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents public transit workers in Toronto and the York Region.

Police association president Jon Reid said it will “make every effort to protect all of our members and therefore, does not support this mandatory vaccination announcement or mandatory disclosure.”

ATU local 113 president Carlos Santos pushed back against the Toronto Transit Commission’s mandatory vaccination policy.

The union has urged members not to disclose any private medical information to the country’s largest transit authority.

“ATU Local 113 opposes this policy, and we will fight to defend your right to make your own personal health decisions and protect your private medical information,” Santos said in a letter to members on the union’s website.

Santos added that the union will oppose any discipline imposed on members.

However, Dias said the labour movement should be candid with people about whether unions can actually block terminations.

“I think there’s a lot of unions out there that frankly don’t have the political will to be honest,” he said, adding that the union isn’t obligated to take a case to arbitration.

“According to our lawyers, if they are fired for refusing to take a vaccine and they don’t have a bona fide medical reason to do so that an arbitrator will very likely side with the employer.”

While the Canadian Labour Congress supports vaccinations, it says the country’s unions are concerned that mandatory vaccinations will hand employers overreaching powers.

“Any decision to impose mandatory vaccination policies must be based on scientific evidence and be made by public health officials, not employers or unions,” it stated in a news release.

It said unions must be consulted in the development and implementation of any mandatory vaccination policies with exemptions and accommodations and privacy protections being essential.

The central labour body in Canada said it rejects threats of discipline or termination as an approach to increasing vaccination rates.

“Unions will defend workers’ interests and insist employers respect the terms and conditions of the collective agreement and human rights codes.”

Various national unions similarly support vaccines in general while seeking oversight for sweeping employer mandates.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees says governments and employers need to consult with unions before finalizing and implementing vaccine policies. It also says workers who cannot be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons must be accommodated under human rights legislation.

“As a union, we recognize our obligation to those members who are not vaccinated,” it stated, adding that alternate work arrangements, screening and testing before entering the workplace can be effective.

Public Service Alliance of Canada national president Chris Aylward said it supports the government’s goals but the verification of vaccination or medical status of members must respect their legal right to privacy.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) said it categorically reject terminations and discipline as leverage to increase vaccination rates.

“Punitive policies are not conducive for a positive workplace and a healthy relationship with employees.”

Teamsters Canada questioned the urgency of the government’s push for a vaccine mandate given alternative ways to encourage vaccination.

“Canada already has one of the world’s best vaccination programmes, and other measures like provincial vaccine passport systems had promising potential.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2021.

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Race remains very close between Liberals and Conservatives on eve of 44th federal election: Nanos – CTV News

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TORONTO —
On the eve of the 44th Canadian federal election, the race between the Liberals and Conservatives remains very close, while Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau maintains his slight advantage over Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole when it comes to preferred prime minister.

In a one-day sample of 800 Canadians performed by Nanos Research for CTV News and The Globe and Mail, the Liberals are at 32.4 per cent, while the Conservatives trail close behind at 31.2 per cent.

The NDP remain in third place at 17.5 per cent, while the Bloc Quebecois sits at 7.5 per cent.

The People’s Party of Canada (PPC) is in fifth place at 6.6 per cent and the Green Party is in sixth place, with 4.5 per cent support.

Of those surveyed, 8.2 per cent are still undecided.

“This is a lot like 2019,” Nik Nanos, founder and chief data scientist at Nanos Research, said earlier Sunday on CTV’s Question Period. The 2019 election also saw a dead heat between the two parties in the national ballot. But the Liberals, because of vote efficiency, were able to win a minority government because they won more seats in the House Commons.

Nanos said what we should be watching for on Monday night, again, is how the national ballot converts into seats.

REGIONAL RACES

Nanos said to watch for “very exciting and interesting regional races” in Atlantic Canada, where there are a number of seats too close to call with Conservative candidates posing a threat to Liberals. There are just 32 seats in Atlantic Canada, but with such a close election, a few seats could prove to be decisive.

In vote-rich Quebec, where there are 72 seats, Nanos said there are tight races circling the island of Montreal between the Bloc Quebecois and the Liberals, “that could have a significant impact on how a minority government looks,” he said on CTV News.

In Ontario, meanwhile, Nanos said O’Toole has his eyes firmly set on the vote-rich 905 battleground, with its approximately 3.4 million population and over 30 ridings up for grabs. “If (O’Toole) is going to do well I this election, it’s got to start at the 905,” said Nanos.

And if we jump over to British Columbia, there are three-way, nail-biter races just like in 2019.

“Who knows what will happen (in B.C.), but the NDP are doing well,” said Nanos.

PREFERRED PM

Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has held on to the lead for preferred prime minister, with 31.1 per cent of respondents choosing him first when asked to rank their top two preferences for PM. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole had 27.5 per cent support while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh remained in third, with 19.8 per cent.

Nano Research conducted all of the interviews for this survey on Sunday and released them Sunday night at 10:00 pm ET.

METHODOLOGY

A national dual-frame (land+cell) random telephone survey is conducted nightly by Nanos Research throughout the campaign using live agents. Each evening a new group of 400 eligible voters are interviewed (800 on September 19th). The daily tracking figures are based on a three-day rolling sample comprised of 1,600 interviews. To update the tracking a new day of interviewing is added and the oldest day dropped. The margin of error for a survey of 1,600 respondents is ±2.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

September 19th tracking is a standalone one-day random sample of 800 Canadians.The margin error is ±3.6per centage points, 19 times out of 20.

Preferred PM Sept. 19

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Canadians appear eager to take off for sun destinations despite ongoing COVID-19 challenges – CBC.ca

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Michel Dubois has packed his bags, even though his planned trip to Cuba is still more than two months away.

That’s because the retired TV cameraman and editor from Saint-Jérome, Que., is eager for a break from the monotony of pandemic life.

“After a year and a half of sitting in front of my TV and computer, it’s time to move on,” said Dubois, 70, who plans to do some scuba diving and enjoy the sun.

Trips like the one Dubois has booked are giving airlines and tour operators something to look forward to as well — seemingly better business prospects after months of severely hampered operations due to pandemic-related border closures and travel restrictions.

Some key travel players are reporting increased demand for bookings to sun destinations, despite the ongoing challenges of a global pandemic that has yet to end inside or outside Canada’s borders.

Better days ahead?

The onset of the pandemic prompted governments — including Canada’s — to urge people to stay home to stem the spread of the coronavirus and its variants.

It’s a stance Ottawa still holds, even though the government recently loosened restrictions for incoming travellers who are vaccinated.

Tourists relax on a beach in Cancun, Mexico, last month. (Marco Ugarte/The Associated Press)

“We continue to advise against non-essential travel outside of Canada,” Global Affairs Canada said in an email on Friday, noting that this applies to all countries around the globe.

The department also pointed to practical concerns for those who choose to go abroad.

“Additional travel restrictions can be imposed suddenly. Airlines can suspend or reduce flights without notice. Travel plans may be severely disrupted, making it difficult to return home.”

WATCH | Incoming travellers and Canada’s 4th COVID-19 wave:

Canada walks fine line as border reopens during fourth wave

13 days ago

As Canada prepares to allow non-essential travel from nearly anywhere in the world, the country walks a fine line between needing to reopen and fears over the fourth wave of COVID-19. 2:00

Indeed, COVID-19 travel restrictions vary from country to country, with vaccine passports gaining traction with some governments. Prior to the current federal election campaign, Ottawa had announced plans to develop such documentation for international travel.

Then and now

Ambarish Chandra, an associate professor of economics at the University of Toronto, says that while the government actively discouraged travel last winter, that didn’t deter all people from going abroad — such as snowbirds who went to Florida.

With the progress on vaccination that has been made, Chandra said he believes Ottawa’s stance on leisure travel may have to shift.

“I don’t think it would be reasonable for the government to go a second winter season saying: ‘Don’t travel,'” Chandra said in an interview.

A mask-wearing pilot at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in March 2020, the same month the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. Many border closures and travel restrictions were soon put into effect in countries around the world. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Jörg Fritz, an associate professor in the microbiology and immunology department at Montreal’s McGill University, says that as travel picks up, Canada will have to keep a close eye on what strains of the virus are circulating here and around the globe.

“We simply need to face that this virus will not go away that quickly,” he said.

“The danger that new variants arise that might escape vaccine-induced immunity is still there and will be there for quite a while.”

It’s also key for Canada to continue increasing its vaccination rate and to ensure that children are protected as soon as that is possible, Fritz said.

A desire to get away

Air Canada says the upcoming fall and winter looks promising for travel to sun destinations.

“When looking to the sun market, we are very optimistic about our recovery,” airline spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick told CBC News in a recent email, adding that “we are currently observing demand growth that is above 2019 levels.”

Sunwing Travel Group says it’s seeing ‘encouraging demand’ for sun-destination bookings compared with last fall. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, Sunwing Travel Group reports seeing “encouraging demand” compared with last fall, which spokesperson Melanie Anne Filipp says shows Canadians are growing more confident about travelling again.

“The rise in vaccinations across the country and easing border measures have without a doubt contributed to Canadians’ increasing interest in travel to sun destinations,” said Filipp, who noted that business remains below pre-pandemic levels.

Montreal-based Air Transat is currently flying passengers to a mix of domestic and international locations. Some of its sun destinations include Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico.

“We confirm that demand is doing well, and we clearly feel that the urge to travel is back,” Air Transat spokesperson Debbie Cabana said via email.

“However, because of the uncertainty that still exists when traveling abroad, bookings are being made more last minute than before the pandemic.”

Being able to back out

A last-minute travel buy was not the story for Dubois, the retired TV cameraman, who booked his own trip back in January.

But he also bought a ticket that will allow him to cancel his plans up to 24 hours before departure, with a full refund.

Tourists take a break at a restaurant in Havana, Cuba, in August 2019. Seven months later, the global pandemic was declared, bringing an end to most leisure travel throughout the world. (Fernando Medina/Reuters)

On prior trips, he hadn’t tended to pencil in the possibility of needing to cancel — but that was before COVID-19.

“Before now, no,” said Dubois, who worked for both CBC and Radio-Canada during his career. “Now, definitely.”

The University of Toronto’s Chandra says the more flexible arrangements being offered by airlines reflects the fact that some customers won’t be willing to book expensive tickets if there’s a chance they will lose their money.

Rolling out the welcome mat

Dubois is heading to Cuba at the end of November, and by that time, travel restrictions will have been eased.

The Cuban Tourism Ministry recently announced that as of Nov. 15, Canadians with proof of vaccination won’t have to take a test before heading to the country. They’ll also be able to travel across the island.

Vacationers take to the water at a Club Med resort in the Dominican Republic before the pandemic. With the progress on vaccination that has been made, one expert says he believes Ottawa’s restrictive stance on leisure travel may have to shift. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

Sunwing’s Filipp said that “numerous sun destinations are already open for travel,” and like Cuba, other destinations are expected to ease restrictions of their own as vaccination rates rise and COVID-19 cases decline.

Chandra says he’s doubtful that differing rules between sun destinations will have much of an effect on travel patterns.

That’s because a lot of sun seekers — and snowbirds in particular — are likely to “stick to their choices” when it comes to their desired winter getaways. “They’re not going to go other places,” he said.

They’re also unlikely to go to other regions because they head south to take advantage of the better weather, he said.

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What is basic income and which of Canada's main parties support it? – CBC.ca

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When the federal government launched the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) last year, it left some wondering whether it could lead to a lasting framework for a national basic income program — one that would help lift struggling Canadians out of poverty. 

While it was a temporary program, CERB provided a touchstone for many who wondered, if the country can create a standard livable wage during a pandemic, why stop there?

Port Elgin, Ont., resident Mini Jacques was one of many who reached out to Ask CBC to find out where the parties stand on basic income during this election.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s an even playing field for basic living,” she said in an interview.

Mini Jacques, who is legally blind, receives $1,169 monthly from the Ontario Disability Support Program to cover all her expenses. Most of that goes towards her $1,022 rent. (Submitted by Mini Jacques)

“The government is saying that for CERB, people get $2,000 just to exist and yet … [we] haven’t had a raise in disability for some time.”

Jacques is blind and relies on the Ontario Disability Support Program for income. Her rent costs $1,022 monthly and she receives $1,169 through ODSP. That leaves her just $147 a month to cover the remaining necessities. 

She works part-time to supplement those benefits, but if she earns more than $200 monthly, half of her take home earnings over $200 are deducted from her income support.

Her rent is increasing, and she worries that her ODSP cheques won’t increase at the same pace. She’s 61 years old, and for now she said she’s getting by with the help of friends and family.

What Jacques wants is for the government to create a basic income program that sets the same standard income for everyone who needs help — whether you’re unemployed, disabled, or working but not earning enough to stay above the poverty line.

  • This story features a voter, like you, who got in touch with us. Send us your questions about the election. We are listening: ask@cbc.ca.

What is basic income?

What makes basic income different from other programs, such as income assistance or welfare, is that it comes with no strings attached. In the simplest terms, it’s a regular payment without conditions, sent from the government to families and individuals.

In Canada about 3.7 million people live below the poverty line, according to the 2019 Canada Income Survey. Statistics Canada considers people as living below the poverty line if they don’t have enough income to cover the local cost of necessities such as food, clothing, footwear, transportation and shelter.

Right now, struggling Canadians can access help support through a patchwork of federal, provincial and municipal programs.

Health economist Evelyn Forget, a professor in the department of health sciences at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, said that basic income would replace many of those programs, and ideally cut out a lot of the confusing, bureaucratic red tape.

Forget, the author of Basic Income for Canadians: from the COVID-19 emergency to financial security for all, is a firm believer in the benefits of basic income.

She explained there are two types:

  • Universal basic income (UBI) means that everyone in a society — rich or poor — gets a monthly cheque for the same amount. At the end of the year, the government uses the tax system to balance out the scales and recoup that extra cash from the higher income earners who didn’t end up needing it. 

  • Guaranteed basic income (GBI) is the system most people are referring to when they talk about basic income in Canada. It is an income-contingent system, meaning monthly payments only go to families and individuals with lower income.

The CERB program was not, in fact, basic income, because there were conditions to qualify: Canadians were only eligible if they had earned at least $5,000 in the last year.

Because the cost of living varies across Canada, there’s no single income level that defines poverty. But Forget said generally, advocates have talked about setting guaranteed basic income at around $20,000 a year for a single person between the ages of 18 to 64. 

Where has it been tested and how well did it work? 

Manitoba’s “Mincome” experiment in an annual guaranteed income

36 years ago

In the 1970s, the province tested an annual age for the working poor. What happened? 2:09

Countries around the world, including Spain, Namibia, Brazil and Iran, have experimented with basic income, mostly through pilot projects and trial runs. 

In Canada, Manitoba ran a pilot project called Mincome from 1974 to 1978 in the rural community of Dauphin.

The idea was to test whether a no-strings attached wage would actually help the working poor by supplementing their income, or end up deterring them from working altogether.

Forget studied the outcomes of that project and found that participants were less likely to be hospitalized and more likely to continue their education.

She said for the most part, basic income did not discourage people from working. One of the groups who worked less were new mothers who, in the 1970s in Manitoba, would have only been entitled to a few weeks of parental leave.

The other group that was disincentivized to work by basic income was young, unattached males. Forget discovered the reason those young men, often in their teens, were less likely to work was because basic income meant their families could afford to let them stay in school. Instead of dropping out to earn wages, they were able to get their high school diplomas. 

“The fundamental idea behind basic income, I think, is solid,” she said.

“Unconditional money available to people allows them to make choices about their own lives, allows them to make better decisions about how to live their lives, and leads to better outcomes.”

More recently, Ontario introduced a basic income pilot project in 2017. Close to 4,000 people were enrolled and it was supposed to last three years, but was cancelled early following the election of Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government. They said the program was too expensive. 

A 2021 report by Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer found that, if the federal government created a national basic income program similar to Ontario’s, it would cost around $85 billion in 2021-2022 and cut poverty rates by almost half.

“It costs a lot, no question about it,” Forget said. 

However, she added that a lot of that cost would be balanced out by eliminating the programs basic income would replace, which might include income assistance or various refundable tax credits.

“A simplified process is always cheaper. It’s always more efficient,” she said.

What are the disadvantages? 

In 2018, the government of British Columbia asked a panel of experts to study the feasibility of a basic income for the province. The resulting report found that “the needs of people in this society are too diverse to be effectively answered simply with a cheque from the government.”

Panel chair David Green, a labour economist and a professor at the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of B.C., said the better solution is to reform the programs that already exist.

“If our problem is really, the full heterogeneous, complex issue of poverty — how do we make a more just society — then, in many cases, sending people a cheque and hoping they will do better is not going to answer the problem,” Green said.

  • Have an election question for CBC News? Email ask@cbc.ca. Your input helps inform our coverage.

Green said it would be better to tackle issues head-on, targeting poor working conditions and low wages, reforming the disability assistance program and boosting rent assistance.

Still, others believe basic income is the right solution for Canada. 

Two of the calls for justice in the final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls said Canada should establish a guaranteed livable income for all.

Where do the main parties stand? 

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, top left, Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O’Toole, top centre, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, top right, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, bottom left, Green Party Leader Annamie Paul, bottom centre, and People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier. (CBC, Erin O’Toole/Creative Commons, CBC, CBC, Chris Young/The Canadian Press, CBC)

Like economists, Canada’s main parties are also divided on basic income, though none are promising universal basic income. Here’s where they stand:

The Green Party:  

  • Platform commits to establishing a guaranteed livable income program.

  • “The federal government would provide an initial base-level subsidy across the country, and an intergovernmental body would determine and administer the necessary supplemental amounts.”

The NDP: 

  • Platform commits to a guaranteed livable basic income.  

  • “New Democrats will work to expand all income security programs to ensure everyone in Canada has access to a guaranteed livable basic income.” 

  • Would start by lifting seniors and people with disabilities out of poverty, and build on that to establish a basic income for all. 

The Liberal Party: 

  • No platform commitment to basic income.

  • Strong support from within the party for a basic income program.

  • Liberal MP for Davenport, Julie Dzerowicz, tabled a bill calling for a national basic income strategy in 2021. The bill died at the dissolution of parliament when the election was called.

The Conservatives:

The Bloc Québécois: 

The People’s Party of Canada: 

Do you have a question about the federal election? Send it to ask@cbc.ca, fill out this form or leave it in the comments. We’re answering as many as we can leading up to election day. You can read our answers to other election-related questions here.

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