Ontario commuters scrambled to make last-minute changes to their travel plans on Sunday as protesters continued their blockade of two crucial VIA Rail routes, part of a demonstration against a natural gas pipeline being built more than 4,000 kilometres away.
VIA Rail said 18 of its trains were cancelled Sunday, affecting service between Toronto and Montreal, as well as Toronto and Ottawa in both directions. Canadian National Railway traffic was also blocked along the corridor east of Toronto.
The blockade in Tyendinaga Mohawk territory took over the tracks Thursday night in solidarity with demonstrators in northwest B.C., where Indigenous people and supporters are protesting the construction of a pipeline that crosses Wet’suwet’en territory. The Ontario protest, which began Thursday, is based where a road intersects with rail tracks about 20 kilometres east of Belleville and 60 kilometres west of Kingston.
RCMP officers there have been arresting people for breaching a court injunction related to opposition to the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline.
VIA on Sunday said service on the two critical routes would not continue “until the issue is resolved,” according to a public statement. It said ticket holders would be automatically reimbursed for cancelled trips.
CN says it has been granted an injunction order to remove protesters from the site near Belleville.
Delayed commuters on Sunday complained of the cancellations, with some expressing frustrations over missed family events or cancelled trips to return home for the work week.
“I tried to go see my boyfriend who I haven’t seen in over a month,” said one Twitter user. “I heard stories while getting my refund at Union (Station) of a woman missing a wedding, a family missing a funeral …”
Ontario Provincial Police say they’re continuing to monitor the demonstration.
On Saturday, more protesters in Toronto disrupted Canadian Pacific Railway traffic downtown and momentarily blocked GO Transit trains on the Barrie line.
Photos from the protest site from Thursday night on social media showed a large dump truck equipped with a plough blocking tracks at a rail crossing. The distinctive red-backed flag of the Mohawk Warrior Society had been affixed to the top of a long, upright crossing barrier and a hand-painted sign read: “#RCMP get out.”
By Friday, the vehicles were not on the tracks but had been pulled back to the tracks’ edge. There was a report of a sofa being on the tracks Friday morning.
Facebook messages associated with the protest said the tracks will reopen when the RCMP leave Wet’suwet’en territory.
In a Friday report by the National Post, Chief Donald Maracle of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte said he has had no communication with the protesters. The protest is an action by individuals in the community and is not a band council action or stemming from a council decision, he said.
A second request for comment from Maracle was not answered on Sunday.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline feeds into a $36-billion liquefied natural gas project that was approved by Prime Minster Justin Trudeau at the end of 2018. TC Energy, the Calgary-based company building the pipeline, has signed benefit agreements with the roughly 20 First Nations who reside along the route.
The project has received broad consent from Indigenous communities, including elected Wet’suwet’en officials, but hereditary chiefs have strongly opposed its development.
With files from Adrian Humphreys, National Post, and The Canadian Press
Power has been restored after downtown Toronto outage, Hydro One says – The Globe and Mail
Hydro One said power has been restored in Toronto after an outage in the city’s downtown core on Thursday that lasted nearly eight hours and affected about 10,000 customers.
Toronto Hydro said the outage, which began at approximately 12:30 p.m., affected an area stretching from just south of Bloor Street to the edge of the waterfront, and as far west as University Avenue to the Don Valley Parkway in the east.
“Safety is always our top priority. We know this power outage has made today exceptionally difficult for many of you, and we appreciate your patience,” said David Lebeter, chief operating officer of Hydro One in a Thursday evening statement.
“We had all available resources helping to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. I want to thank all of those affected by this outage for their patience and Toronto Fire and Toronto Hydro for their collaboration.”
The cause of the outage was confirmed to be a barge carrying a crane that had struck a critical high-voltage power line in city’s Port Lands district, Hydro One confirmed in a statement Thursday evening.
Hydro One spokesperson Tiziana Baccega Rosa initially said the company was investigating a crane accident as a possible cause, after videos of the barge hitting the power lines was posted to social media.
Toronto Fire District Chief Stephan Powell also confirmed the incident and said that fire services were attending to the scene and had cordoned off a significant portion of the area, noting that the power lines fell into the water and the area remained dangerous.
No injuries have been reported, but Mr. Powell said that fire services responded to a high number of people trapped in elevators related to the power outage. Federal Minister of Immigration Sean Fraser tweeted a picture of himself trapped in an elevator with three others, calling it “terrible timing.”
Jennifer Stranges, spokesperson for Unity Health Toronto, said St. Michael’s Hospital is operating as normal but was affected by the outage and was relying on backup power systems to maintain patient care.
“Patients with scheduled appointments or who need to visit our emergency department should continue to come to the hospital for care. Our teams have worked quickly to respond to this issue and we thank them for their continued efforts,” Ms. Stranges said in an e-mail.
Gillian Howard, vice-president of communications for University Health Network, said the outage also affected Toronto General Hospital, which is on the corner of University Avenue and Elizabeth Street. Ms. Howard said the hospital was operating on normal power, but required emergency backup power for around a half hour. She also noted that none of UHN’s facilities on the west side of University Avenue were affected, such as Mount Sinai Hospital or the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.
The outage caused general frustration for residents around the downtown core as entire blocks remained without power, halting business and creating traffic jams as intersections became four-way stops. In a reminder of the nationwide Rogers outage in July, stores put up signs turning customers away due to a lack of functioning payment systems and an inability to use any appliances. Some people also complained of being unable to access high-speed cellular services like data and 5G networks.
The billboard-laden Yonge-Dundas Square and the Eaton Centre were also affected, the latter of which had its power restored and reopened to shoppers in the midafternoon. Other high-traffic locations, such as St. Lawrence Market, remained closed for the duration of the outage.
The city confirmed city hall and other government buildings in the affected area were also without power or operating on emergency systems.
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Telus asks CRTC permission to add 1.5% credit card surcharge to customer bills – CBC News
Canadians who pay their cellphone bill with a credit card could soon see an extra fee every month, if Canada’s telecom regulator approves a proposal currently before them.
Telecom company Telus is asking the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for permission to add a 1.5 per cent surcharge to the bills of customers who pay their bill using a credit card. If approved, it would be in place starting as soon as October.
For a theoretical customer in Alberta whose cellphone bill is $100, the charge would bring their bill to $106.66 — $100 for their basic bill, plus $5 for GST, a $1.58 surcharge for the new fee on top of that, plus another 8 cents in GST on the surcharge.
“The company plans to provide advance notices of the fee to its existing customers starting in mid-August,” Telus said in its letter to the regulator.
Fee could be in place by October
The company is asking the regulator to decide on the proposal by Sept. 7 and would like to start levying the new charge as of Oct. 17, and while the CRTC must rule on the matter, in a statement to CBC News the telecom company made the plan sound like a done deal.
“Starting in October, Telus mobility and home services customers choosing to make a bill payment with a credit card will be charged a 1.5 per cent credit card processing fee,” Telus told CBC News in a statement.
“This fee helps us recover a portion of the processing costs we incur to accept credit card payments, and the average cost will be around $2 for most customers,” the company said, adding that it can easily be avoided by paying through a bank, via a debit transaction, or other means.
WATCH | Why Canadians pay more for telecom services than many other countries do:
Telus’ rationale for the move stems from a development this summer, when credit card firms including Visa and MasterCard agreed to a settlement that will see them refund millions of dollars worth of credit card processing fees that merchants have paid them over the years. Crucially, that settlement also gives businesses permission to start charging customers those fees directly starting in October, which is what Telus is trying to do.
Previously, many merchants weren’t allowed to charge customers directly for the fees that credit companies charge them for processing sales. Such fees can range from less than one per cent of the sale, to more than three per cent for some premium cards.
Because just about every part of its business is regulated by the CRTC, Telus needs the regulator to start charging fees that consumers can expect to start seeing from a variety of merchants soon.
CBC News reached out to Rogers and Bell to see if they have any similar plans in the works, but representatives of both companies did not reply to that request within one business day.
Some customers aren’t happy
Some wireless customers aren’t enthused by the idea. Kenneth Hart of Windsor, Ont., a Telus customer for 15 years, calls the plan “a money grab.”
“It’s a bad business move,” he told CBC News in an interview. “They have some accountants telling them this is good. But then you talk about the PR costs, the reputational cost, and it could create … dissatisfaction for those customers who are already … not satisfied.”
“This could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Telus only filed the application on Monday, and the CRTC has already heard from more than 200 Canadians via its website, many of which are opposed to the plan.
Steve Struthers is one of them. The resident of London, Ont., is not a Telus customer but he took the time to give his two cents to the regulator because of how opposed he is to the plan.
“Consumers are already extremely stressed with unaffordable housing, increased food prices, expensive gasoline prices and wages that are not keeping up with any of this,” he told CBC News in an interview.
“I’m quite certain they could afford to absorb a 1.5 per cent credit card fee … It bothers me knowing the cellphone companies aren’t happy with the money they’re making and they still want more in an environment where people are reaching their limit as to what they can pay.”
‘The last thing anyone needs is an additional fee’
Rosa Addario, a spokesperson for telecom watchdog OpenMedia, says the plan is just the latest way for the industry to extract more revenue from cash-strapped Canadian consumers.
“All three of our telecom providers … have reported increased profits, increased revenue and increased customers for 2021,” she told CBC News in an interview. “They are doing better than ever. This is just another way to raise our bills through shady practices and extra fees and adding things on top so that we are paying even more than we already are.”
Suze Morrison, a former Ontario MPP, is urging the CRTC to reject the proposal, noting that it will disproportionately impact people who are already financially vulnerable.
“Working class people, low income people are really struggling to make ends meet right now,” she told CBC News in an interview. “The last thing anyone needs is an additional fee just because of how they pay their telephone bill to keep their phone lines connected.”
WATCH | Canada has 3 major telecom providers. Could that change?
While credit card surcharges are creeping into many businesses, she says it’s different for a telecom utility to charge them because it is a necessity. “A consumer has a choice to go to a mom and pop restaurant or to cook dinner at home or to go to a restaurant that’s not charging fees for credit card swipes,” she said.
“But we’ve allowed so much consolidation in our telecom industry and there’s such a monopoly in the sector that it’s not like folks can say, ‘OK, well, if you’re going to charge a fee, I’m going to take my business somewhere else.’ I have nowhere else to go.”
Rogers and Shaw sign deal with Quebecor to sell Freedom Mobile – CP24
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, August 12, 2022 8:31AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 12, 2022 8:31AM EDT
TORONTO — Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. have signed a definitive agreement with Quebecor Inc. that will see the Montreal-based telecom company acquire wireless carrier Freedom Mobile Inc.
Rogers will sell Shaw-owned Freedom to Videotron Ltd., which is owned by Quebecor, for $2.85 billion in a deal it hopes will appease the concerns of federal regulators about its $26-billion proposed takeover of Shaw.
The parties said Friday in a news release that the agreement is consistent with the terms agreed upon on June 17 when the deal was first announced, and is subject to regulatory approvals and the closing of the merger of Rogers and Shaw.
The sale will see Quebecor buy all of Freedom’s branded wireless and internet customers as well as all of Freedom’s infrastructure, spectrum and retail locations in a move that would expand Quebecor’s wireless operations nationally.
The parties said the combination of Freedom and Videotron will create a strong fourth national carrier and address the concerns raised by the Commissioner of Competition and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry regarding the Rogers-Shaw transaction.
“We are very pleased with this agreement, and we are determined to continue building on Freedom’s assets,” said Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau in the news release.
“Our strong track record combined with Freedom’s solid Canadian footprint will allow us to offer consumers in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario more choice, value, and affordability through discounted multiservice bundles and innovative products.”
Quebecor beat out several other parties to reach the deal.
Globalive Capital signed a network and spectrum sharing agreement with Telus Corp. in May to boost its bid to purchase Freedom. Formerly known as Wind Mobile, Freedom was founded by Globalive founder and chairman Anthony Lacavera in 2008.
In a statement, Lacavera said the agreement is the “latest in a long series of fake competition proposals put forward to keep wireless prices high at the expense of Canadians, many of whom are already struggling with inflation.”
Eastlink, a Halifax-based telecommunications company, and New Brunswick-based rural internet provider Xplornet Communications Inc. were also said to be interested in Freedom.
The formalization of the Freedom sale comes as Rogers continues to deal with the fallout from the July 8 service outage that impacted millions of Canadians for days.
In response to the outage, Rogers promised to split its wireless and wireline services to help make sure its customers don’t experience an outage with both cellular and internet services again, which the company has said will cost $250 million.
Additionally, Rogers has committed to spending $10 billion over three years to increase oversight, testing and the use of artificial intelligence to ensure reliable service.
It has also said that it is making progress on a formal agreement with Canada’s other telecom companies to switch 911 calls to one another’s networks automatically in the event of an outage.
A week after the outage, Federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the situation would be on his mind as he weighs the Rogers-Shaw deal.
So far, the deal has only been approved by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
Last month, Rogers extended the deadline to complete its transaction with Shaw to Dec. 31. Rogers said the closing date may be extended even further to Jan. 31, 2023.
The closing date has been delayed several times.
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