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In The News for Dec. 1: Canada gains on U.S. in permanent resident race

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Last year, the number of new permanent residents in the U.S. barely budged to 738,199, up slightly from 707,362 in 2020, the year the pandemic began.

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But in Canada, the number soared to more than 405,000 — more than twice the number who arrived in 2020, and still nearly 20 per cent more than in 2019.

It’s a record that will likely be beaten more than once in the coming years, as a Canadian federal immigration plan released earlier this month aims to admit 465,000 new permanent residents in 2023 and 500,000 a year by 2025, with a particular focus on bringing in people with needed skills and experience.

Business leaders say the government should be even more focused on attracting skilled migrants than it already is, and do more to ensure their credentials and qualifications are recognized.

Housing is a problem too, with association CEO Jack Jedwab saying Toronto beat out the New York area last year as the most popular destination for new permanent residents.

Also this …

HIV activists are marking World AIDS Day by urging Ottawa to help stop a global backslide in stopping infections and combating stigma.

The World Health Organization has reported a slowing in the decline of new HIV cases, ever since countries focused their limited health care systems on COVID-19.

There is a rising proportion of cases among women and people who inject drugs in Canada, and Indigenous people accounted for nearly one-fifth of new infections in 2020.

Advocates point out that Canada still criminalizes people for not telling sexual partners that they have HIV, even when prescription drugs make it impossible to transmit the virus.

They argue that the risk of prosecution prevents people from accessing testing and treatment.

AIDS has killed roughly 40 million people, including 650,000 in 2021

What we are watching in the U.S. …

WASHINGTON _ Presidents Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron are celebrating the long-standing U.S.-French relationship _ but these are friends with differences. The French president is using his visit to Washington to sharply criticize aspects of the U.S. president’s signature climate law as a bad deal for Europe.

Biden is set to honour Macron with the first state dinner of his presidency on Thursday evening. First, the two leaders will sit down in the Oval Office for morning talks that officials from both sides said were expected to largely centre on the leaders’ efforts to stay united in their response to Russia’s war in Ukraine and to co-ordinate their approach to an increasingly assertive China.

But ahead of Thursday’s meeting, Macron made clear that he and other European leaders remain deeply concerned about the incentives in a sweeping new climate-related law that favour American-made climate technology, including electric vehicles.

Macron on Wednesday criticized the legislation, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, during a luncheon with U.S. lawmakers and again during a speech at the French embassy. The French president said that while the Biden administration’s efforts to curb climate change should be applauded, the subsidies would be an enormous setback for European companies.

“The choices that have been made … are choices that will fragment the West,” Macron said at the French embassy. He added that the legislation “creates such differences between the United States of America and Europe that all those who work in many companies (in the U.S.), they will just think, `We don’t make investments any more on the other side of the Atlantic.”’

Separately, at the luncheon with members of Congress from both parties, along with business leaders and diplomats, Macron said that major industrial nations need to do more to address climate change and promote biodiversity.

He criticized a deal reached at a recent climate summit in Egypt in which the United States and other wealthy nations agreed to help pay for the damage that an overheating world is inflicting on poor countries. The deal includes few details on how it will be paid for, and Macron said a more comprehensive approach is needed _ “not just a new fund we decided which will not be funded and even if it is funded, it will not be rightly allocated.”

Speaking after his prepared remarks and without cameras present, Macron took aim at the Inflation Reduction Act, calling the subsidies harmful to French companies and others in Europe, according to a person in the closed-door meeting. The European Union has expressed concern that tax credits in the climate law, including those aimed at encouraging Americans to buy electric vehicles, would discriminate against European producers and break World Trade Organization rules.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

BENGALURU, India _ India officially takes up its role as chair of the Group of 20 leading economies for the coming year Thursday and it’s putting climate at the top of the group’s priorities.

Programs to encourage sustainable living and money for countries to transition to clean energy and deal with the effects of a warming world are some of the key areas that India will focus on during its presidency, experts say. Some say India will also use its new position to boost its climate credentials and act as a bridge between the interests of industrialized nations and developing ones.

The country has made considerable moves toward its climate goals in recent years but is currently one of the world’s top emitters of planet-warming gases.

The G-20, made up of the world’s largest economies, has a rolling presidency with a different member state in charge of the group’s agenda and priorities each year. Experts believe India will use the “big stage” of the G-20 presidency to drive forward its climate and development plans.

The country “will focus heavily on responding to the current and future challenges posed by climate change,” said Samir Sarin, president of the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank. The ORF will be anchoring the T-20 _ a group of think tanks from the 20 member countries whose participants meet alongside the G-20.

Sarin said that India will work to ensure that money is flowing from rich industrialized nations to emerging economies to help them combat global warming, such as a promise of $100 billion a year for clean energy and adapting to climate change for poorer nations that has not yet been fulfilled and a recent pledge to vulnerable countries that there will be a fund for the loss and damage caused by extreme weather.

He added that India will also use the presidency to push its flagship “Mission Life” program that encourages more sustainable lifestyles in the country, which is set to soon become most populous in the world.

When outgoing chair Indonesia formally handed the presidency to India in Bali last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the opportunity to promote the program, saying it could make “a big contribution” by turning sustainable living into “a mass movement.”

India has been beefing up its climate credentials, with its recent domestic targets to transition to renewable energy more ambitious than the goals it submitted to the U.N. as part of the Paris Agreement, which requires countries to show how they plan to limit warming to temperature targets set in 2015.

On this day in 201 …

Canada acted on an American request and arrested a top Chinese tech executive in Vancouver. Meng Wanzhou is the CFO of Huawei Technologies and daughter of the company’s founder. The U.S. wanted her to face allegations of fraud as it says Huawei used unofficial subsidiary Skycom to do business with Iranian telecommunications companies between 2009 and 2014 in violation of sanctions. (Wanzhou was released in September 2021 after reaching an agreement with the US Justice Department.)

In entertainment …

LONDON _ They want money _ that’s what they want, that’s what they want. Well, now the Rolling Stones can say they’re also ON money, the face of a new collectible coin issued by Britain’s Royal Mint to celebrate the band’s 60th anniversary.

The new five-pound coin features a silhouette image of the iconic band performing _ frontman Mick Jagger, guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, and the late drummer Charlie Watts _ as well as the band’s name in what is described as their classic 1973 font. The mint said it was one of the last coins of the year to be released bearing the image of Queen Elizabeth, who died in September at age 96.

The Rolling Stones were back on the road this year with their 2022 European “Sixty” tour, ending in Berlin in August.

“We are delighted to be honoured by way of an official U.K. coin,” the band said in a statement included in the Royal Mint’s announcement. “Even more significant that the release coincides with our 60th anniversary.”

The new coin is the fifth in the mint’s “Music Legends”’ series, which celebrates legendary British artists. Others so honoured have been Queen, Elton John, David Bowie, and The Who.

While the best things in life are free, as the Stones sang in their cover of the Motown hit “Money (That’s What I Want),” the coins will cost something. Similar coins on the mint’s website from the Music Legends series range from 15 pounds to 465 pounds.

Did you see this?

WINNIPEG _ A 101-year-old message has been discovered by workers removing the base of a former statue in front of the Manitoba legislature.

Workers have been removing, piece by piece, the large base that held a statue of Queen Victoria. The statue was toppled last year by protesters. Its head was removed and thrown in the nearby Assiniboine River. The base is being removed to make way for a replacement.

When crews recently removed one section of the base, they found a broken bottle and a note that had been placed inside. The note was an apology of sorts, dated July 30, 1921, _ an era when alcohol was outlawed.

‘It says, on account of the Prohibition, we are unable to adhere to the custom of depositing a bottle of brandy under the stone, for which we are extremely sorry, I believe is what it says,” Reg Helwer, minister responsible for government services, said Wednesday as he tried to make out the wording on the worn dispatch.

The note is signed by a stonecutter, other workers and a bureaucrat _ the province’s deputy minister of public works at the time.

The government is now working out how to best preserve the document and what should be done with it.

Helwer said it’s not the first time an item from Manitoba’s early days as a province has been discovered unexpectedly.

“Apparently there are things of that nature around the legislature. As we move stones, we do discover things like this,” he said.

“To me, it’s a very neat story, especially with the age of the building, just recently celebrating a hundred years not long ago.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022.

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NDP says Alberta premier’s prosecutor review flawed, calls for outside investigation

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Alberta premier's prosecutor

Alberta’s Opposition leader says Premier Danielle Smith’s assurance of a thorough investigation into allegations of interference with Crown prosecutors is “an empty talking point” given new details on the search itself.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said that while the Smith-directed email search covered the four-month period in question, any deleted message was erased from the system after just a month, meaning the relevant time period for those emails was likely missed.

“It is outrageous that Danielle Smith is really naive enough to think that Albertans would trust an internal investigation that has not been transparently conducted, that has been conducted by people who answer to her, and that only considered deleted emails that go back 30 days,” Notley said Thursday in Calgary.

“This is an empty talking point and nothing else,” she added, renewing a call for an independent, judge-led inquiry into whether Smith and her office interfered in the administration of justice.

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Smith ordered an email review last weekend after CBC News reported allegations that a staffer in the premier’s office sent a series of emails last fall to Crown prosecutors questioning their assessment and direction in cases related to the blockade at the Coutts, Alta., U.S. border crossing in early 2022.

The CBC did not specify precisely when the emails were sent and said it has not viewed the emails in question.

RCMP laid charges against several people involved in the three-week blockade at Coutts to protest COVID-19 restrictions. The charges range from mischief to conspiracy to commit murder.

On Monday, the Justice Department reported that a review of almost a million emails — incoming, outgoing and deleted — sent over a four-month period last fall turned up no evidence of any communications between prosecutors and the premier’s office.

However, Alberta Justice, in a statement to media outlets Wednesday, stated that deleted emails are only kept for 30 days, meaning the search for deleted emails would only capture those from around Dec. 22 onward and perhaps not capture deleted emails during the time frame in question.

Alberta Justice, along with Ethan Lecavalier-Kidney, who speaks for Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, declined to respond to requests Thursday for that statement or explain why the statement was now being withheld.

Notley’s comments came a day after Smith faced a second CBC story, quoting unnamed sources alleging she pressured Shandro and his office to intervene in COVID-related cases.

Smith reiterated in a statement: “All communications between the premier, her staff, the minister of justice, and ministry of justice public servants have been appropriate and made through the proper channels.”

In the statement, Smith also accused the CBC of publishing “a defamatory article containing baseless allegations” referring to the original email story.

Chuck Thompson, the CBC head of public affairs, said in a statement Wednesday: “We stand by the story which transparently attributes the allegations to trusted sources and provides context to the allegations.

“As is our practice, we gave the premier and her office an opportunity to react and we included that response prominently in the story, including the sub-headline.”

Smith has given multiple versions in recent weeks of what she has said to justice officials about COVID-19 cases.

She has not taken questions in a general news conference with reporters since the affair took off two weeks ago when Smith announced that she was talking to prosecutors about the COVID-19 cases.

Smith has said she talked to prosecutors directly and did not talk to prosecutors directly. She has said she reminded justice officials of general prosecution guidelines, but at other times said she reminded them to consider factors unique to the COVID-19 cases. She has also suggested the conversations are ongoing and that they have ended.

She has attributed the confusion to “imprecise” word choices.

In her statement Wednesday, Smith delivered a sixth version, now saying she met not only with Shandro and the deputy attorney general, but also with other unnamed “ministry officials” to discuss the possibility of legal amnesty to those charged with “non-violent, non-firearms pandemic-related violations.”

The statement added: “The premier and her staff had several discussions with the minister of justice and ministry officials, requesting an explanation of what policy options were available for this purpose.

“After receiving a detailed legal opinion from the minister to not proceed with pursuing options for granting amnesty, the premier followed that legal advice.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

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B.C. to install earthquake warning sensors to give life-saving notice

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B.C. to install earthquake warning

Up to 50 earthquake early warning sensors are being installed around British Columbia as part of a larger plan to protect people and infrastructure in a big quake.

The sensors will be connected to the national Earthquake Early Warning system that’s expected to be in operation by 2024.

A joint federal and provincial government announcement today says the sensors will give seconds, or perhaps tens of seconds, of warning before the strongest shaking arrives, helping to reduce injuries, deaths and property loss.

Bowinn Ma, B.C.’s minister of emergency management, says in a statement that an early warning system is critical to helping those in the province mitigate the impacts of a seismic event.

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When the full system is operational next year, more than 10 million Canadians living in the most earthquake-prone areas of the country will get early warning alerts, giving them precious seconds to take cover.

There are over 5,000 earthquakes in Canada every year, most of them along B.C.’s coast, although about 20 per cent of the quakes are along the St. Lawrence River and Ottawa River valleys.

On Jan. 26, 1700, a magnitude-9 megathrust earthquake hit North America’s west coast, creating a tsunami that carried across the Pacific Ocean and slammed into Japan.

The statement says if a similar quake happens when the early warning system is operating, it could give up to four minutes’ warning before the strongest shaking starts in coastal B.C. communities.

It says the system could also be used to automatically trigger trains to slow down, stop traffic from driving over bridges or into tunnels, divert air traffic, automatically close gas valves, and open firehall and ambulance bay doors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

This is a corrected story. A previous version said the earthquake warning system is expected to be operational in 2023. In fact, it is expected to be operational in 2024.

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Renters in Canada are facing the toughest market since 2001: CMHC report – Global News

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Renters in Canada are facing the toughest market in decades with low vacancies, higher prices and surging demand, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

The housing agency released its annual rental market report Thursday, which showed that the national vacancy rate for purpose-built rental apartments declined to 1.9 per cent last year — the lowest level since 2001.

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Meanwhile, the demand for rentals outstripped supply due to higher net migration, the return of students to on-campus learning and a rise in homeownership costs.

“Higher mortgage rates, which drove up already-elevated costs of homeownership, made it harder and less attractive for renters to transition to homeownership,” CMHC said in a statement.

CMHC data also showed that the average rent for two-bedroom units that were occupied by a new tenant rose by 18.3 per cent — well above the average rent growth for units without turnover. This made it difficult for Canadians trying to enter the rental market or find new housing to rent, the agency said.

“Lower vacancy rates and rising rents were a common theme across Canada in 2022,” Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist, said in a statement.

“This caused affordability challenges for renters, especially those in the lower income ranges, with very few units in the market available in their price range.”


Click to play video: 'How will housing market look in the next year?'

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How will housing market look in the next year?


The average rent for a two-bedroom rental condominium apartment saw a significant increase to $1,930 from $1,771, about nine per cent year over year, according to CMHC.

Canada is also facing a housing crunch with a shortage of both homes and construction workers to build new units.

Another CMHC report released last week found that the annual rate of new home building had slowed by five per cent in December 2022 compared with November.

Last month, in a bid to help tackle skyrocketing rents across the country, the government of Canada opened applications for a one-time top-up as part of the Canada Housing Benefit (CHB) program — an initiative that would put $500 in the pockets of low-income renters.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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