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Many snowbirds flocking south despite Canadian government's advice to seniors to stay home – CBC.ca

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In anticipation of the winter travel season, the federal government has issued an online alert to seniors, advising them to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the message may have little impact on snowbirds who are determined to escape the Canadian winter. 

“I don’t like winter. I hate it. I hate it with a passion,” said Steve MacDonald, 77, of Oakville, Ont. He has already booked a Dec. 3 flight to Florida for himself and his wife, so they can spend the winter at their rented condo in Key Largo.

“Down there, [I’ll] be swimming outside and taking in some sun, getting some vitamin D and cheap rum.”

He’ll be in good company. The Canadian Snowbird Association estimates that around 30 per cent of its more than 110,000 members will head to the United States Sunbelt this winter — despite soaring COVID-19 cases in the country and the Canada-U.S. land border closure to non-essential traffic.

Snowbirds can still fly to the U.S. and ship their cars. But the Canadian government is asking seniors to think twice before leaving the country, because their age makes them more susceptible to falling seriously ill from COVID-19. 

The federal government posted this alert online for seniors who may be considering travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Government of Canada)

“If you are an older traveller, you may be immunocompromised or have chronic medical conditions, such as obesity, that put you at risk,” states the government in its online alert targeting seniors

“By choosing to stay home in Canada, you can help protect yourself, your family and those at risk … in our communities.”

Global Affairs Canada posted the alert on its web page for “older travellers” on Oct. 1 — one day after CBC News published a story about Canadian snowbirds heading south despite the pandemic. 

Since the start of the pandemic in March, Global Affairs has advised all Canadians to avoid non-essential travel abroad. It says that the government may have limited capacity to help people who choose to leave Canada and then encounter problems.

Steve MacDonald and wife, Janet, in Key Largo, Fla., in 2019. The couple plan to return this winter despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Steve MacDonald)

Snowbird MacDonald never saw the government’s alert for travelling seniors, and when he learned about it from CBC News this week, he wasn’t swayed. 

He said that he and his wife are healthy and plan to take all necessary precautions while in Florida, including sticking to their gated community. 

“We’re just gonna keep doing the same thing that we do here, like you don’t go out with a bunch of people and party and have people over for dinner,” said MacDonald. “I feel as safe going down there as I am here.”

He also said that he has the added protection of COVID-19 medical insurance, in case something does go wrong. Insurance providers recently reinstated the coverage after suspending it for several months during the pandemic.

‘Bucking the odds’

In September, travel insurance broker Martin Firestone told CBC News that less than 10 per cent of his 1,000 snowbird clients were heading south. But now, he said, close to one third are packing their bags.

“They’re bucking the odds. They’re basically saying, ‘I’m going to go down there, and I’m going to be fine.'”

WATCH | Some Canadian snowbirds heading south despite pandemic:

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t stopping some Canadian snowbirds from heading to the U.S. this winter, but they’re not all willing to take the risk for warmer weather. 2:07

Firestone said that travelling abroad right now does carry risks, such as hospitals at a U.S. destination becoming overloaded with COVID-19 patients. 

He believes the government should make seniors aware of the risks but says that an online post won’t have much impact. 

“It’s on that website that very few seniors, I’m sure, check,” said Firestone with Travel Secure in Toronto. “It should have been a campaign that appeared in newsprint and media and magazines.”

CBC News asked Global Affairs if it was planning an ad campaign; it didn’t respond. 

Can’t be swayed?

Even snowbirds who learn of the government’s advice may still choose to ignore it, convinced that the benefits of going south this winter outweigh the risks. 

Although CBC News informed snowbird Sandy Munro of the posted alert for travelling seniors, he’s still bent on going to his condo in Naples, Fla., in February. He said he’d go sooner but has family commitments keeping in him in Canada for the next couple of months. 

Canadian snowbirds Sandy Munro and wife, Lynn, plan to head to their condo in Naples, Fla., in February. (Submitted by Sandy Munro)

“I can only take so much of winter,” said Munro, 69, of Aurora, Ont.

He argues he’ll actually be safer in Florida, because he suffers from a lung disorder, which worsens in cold weather. 

“As long as I’m in my little gated community — being COVID-aware — then I think my life expectancy would be longer by spending the winter down there,” he said. 

However, Munro admits that if he did contract COVID-19, he’d probably wind up with a severe case — due to his lung condition.

But that still doesn’t deter the snowbird who said he’ll take his chances so that he can enjoy a warm and active winter. 

“I’m 69. I still can do things like golf, tennis, pickleball,” Munro said. “I don’t know how long I’m gonna be able to do that for, so I’m gonna grab it.”

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Canadians offer mixed confidence in government's vaccine rollout: Nanos survey – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Just one in six Canadians are confident in the federal government’s rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine once one becomes available, according to the latest data from Nanos Research.

The survey, commissioned by CTV News and released on Monday, asked 1,096 Canadians how confident they are that the government has a “a well organized plan to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to Canadians as quickly as possible” and found that just 16 per cent of respondents said they are “confident,” while another 40 per cent said they are “somewhat confident.”

“It’s very early in this process and I think until we actually see more details and there’s more meat on the bone, I expect (the vaccine rollout is) still going to be a bit of a question mark for many Canadians,” Nik Nanos, the chair of Nanos Research, told CTV’s Power Play.

When broken down regionally, respondents from Quebec offered the most confidence, with 73 per cent of respondents indicating that they are either confident or somewhat confident, while respondents in the Prairies had the least confidence, with 29 per cent indicating they are “not confident” in the vaccine rollout.

On Monday, Moderna Inc. said its testing shows that their COVID-19 vaccine is 94 per cent effective. The company is currently under a “rolling review” process with Health Canada, but has already asked for a emergency use approval in the United States and Europe.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to lead Canada’s vaccine rollout, with the goal of immunizing half of Canadians by September 2021.

Nanos says that substantial details in the fiscal update about the vaccine rollout will go a long way towards curbing any skepticism from Canadians.

“Anything said relating to the funding of vaccines, the logistics of vaccines, the distribution, the role that the federal government’s going to take working with provinces, is probably going to be very well met, but if they don’t talk about those things, it’s just going to create a greater level uncertainty about the future,” he said.

With files from The Associated Press

METHODOLOGY

Nanos conducted an RDD dual frame (land-and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,096 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between November 26th and 29th, 2020 as part of an omnibus survey. Participants were randomly recruited by telephone using live agents and administered a survey online. The sample included both land-and cell-lines across Canada. The results were statistically checked and weighted by age and gender using the latest Census information and the sample is geographically stratified to be representative of Canada.

Individuals were randomly called using random digit dialing with a maximum of five call backs.

The margin of error for this survey is ±3.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

This study was commissioned by CTV News and the research was conducted by Nanos Research.

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Canadians now owe more than $2 trillion, Equifax says – CBC.ca

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Consumer demand for credit intensified in the third quarter, driven chiefly by increases in mortgage balances and new auto loans, according to data released Monday by credit reporting agency Equifax.

Mortgage balances and new auto loans were up 6.6 per cent and 11.7 per cent year over year, respectively, according to Equifax. Overall average consumer debt increased 3.3 per cent compared with the third quarter of last year.

Rebecca Oakes, assistant vice-president of advanced analytics at Equifax Canada, said in an interview that growth in mortgages last quarter was especially high, with the largest increase among people under 35. That trend comes even as economic fallout from the pandemic and associated lockdown measures hit young people especially hard.

“In terms of new mortgages, that could be refinancing, or it could be brand-new, first-time home buyers or it could be people moving house,” Oakes said. “That was actually the highest value that we’ve seen ever.”

The increased demand for auto loans in the third quarter could have been a result of pent-up demand from people who had to wait to buy cars later in the year, Oakes said.

Total debt $2 trillion

The figures in Equifax’s report are drawn from banks and other lenders that provide data to the credit rating agency.

Equifax pegged total consumer debt at $2.04 trillion, while Statistics Canada reported in June that household debt had reached $2.3 trillion, with $1.77 in debt for every dollar of household disposable income.

More than three million consumers have chosen to use payment deferral programs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Equifax. Since the start of this year, some banks have offered consumers the option to suspend their loan payments for several months, in recognition of the financial strain the pandemic has created for many households.

However, under the payment deferral programs, interest continues to accrue during the months for which payments are suspended.

The percentage of balances where credit users have missed three or more payments was at its lowest level since 2014, with deferral programs likely masking the true delinquency rates, according to Oakes.

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Canadians now owe more than $2 trillion, Equifax says – CBC.ca

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Consumer demand for credit intensified in the third quarter, driven chiefly by increases in mortgage balances and new auto loans, according to data released Monday by credit reporting agency Equifax.

Mortgage balances and new auto loans were up 6.6 per cent and 11.7 per cent year over year, respectively, according to Equifax. Overall average consumer debt increased 3.3 per cent compared with the third quarter of last year.

Rebecca Oakes, assistant vice-president of advanced analytics at Equifax Canada, said in an interview that growth in mortgages last quarter was especially high, with the largest increase among people under 35. That trend comes even as economic fallout from the pandemic and associated lockdown measures hit young people especially hard.

“In terms of new mortgages, that could be refinancing, or it could be brand-new, first-time home buyers or it could be people moving house,” Oakes said. “That was actually the highest value that we’ve seen ever.”

The increased demand for auto loans in the third quarter could have been a result of pent-up demand from people who had to wait to buy cars later in the year, Oakes said.

Total debt $2 trillion

The figures in Equifax’s report are drawn from banks and other lenders that provide data to the credit rating agency.

Equifax pegged total consumer debt at $2.04 trillion, while Statistics Canada reported in June that household debt had reached $2.3 trillion, with $1.77 in debt for every dollar of household disposable income.

More than three million consumers have chosen to use payment deferral programs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Equifax. Since the start of this year, some banks have offered consumers the option to suspend their loan payments for several months, in recognition of the financial strain the pandemic has created for many households.

However, under the payment deferral programs, interest continues to accrue during the months for which payments are suspended.

The percentage of balances where credit users have missed three or more payments was at its lowest level since 2014, with deferral programs likely masking the true delinquency rates, according to Oakes.

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