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New rules requiring a negative COVID-19 test at Canadian border now in effect – CTV News

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TORONTO —
There could be lineups at Canada’s 117 border crossings with the U.S. Monday, as non-essential travellers now have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the last 72 hours.

It’s the next phase of Ottawa’s new travel restrictions, which came into effect on February 15. Travellers by land are required to show the results of their COVID-19 test. Negative tests need to have been taken within three days of the scheduled arrival at the border, but those permitted to enter the country can also present a positive COVID-19 test, as long as it was taken 14 to 90 days prior to arriving at the border.

All visitors or returning residents still have to quarantine for 14 days after crossing into the country.

Although the need to present test results could slow down proceedings at the border, 93 per cent of drivers will be waved through, as essential workers such as truck drivers and medical staff are exempt from the new restrictions.

Some are saying these new restrictions don’t go far enough.

“Who is more of a threat? A trucker who travelled through 14 states, who slept in his truck, and eat[s] at truck stops, or just two people travelling in Canada?” said CTV News Public Safety Analyst Chris Lewis. “So that’s all very confusing to me.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insists the new requirements will make a difference.

“These border measures will help stop the spread of COVID-19 and new variants,” he said in Ottawa on Friday.

But health experts aren’t so sure, pointing to five different variants now circulating in the U.S.

“It’s not going to keep the virus out,” Kelley Lee, a professor at the Simon Fraser University, told CTV News. “We know that people often need to be tested multiple times before the virus is detected in their system. We know there are false negatives, we also know people can be exposed during those 72 hours.”

Those who do not provide a negative test or other accepted proof at the border face fines up to $3,000.

Starting on Feb. 22, non-essential travellers will also be required to take a COVID-19 test at the border as well as at the end of their 14-day quarantine.

The Canadian Armed Forces may assist with the testing sites at 16 border crossings, but there are few details.

“I don’t think [the] government has specifically said what their role will be, but the military have the ability from a logistical perspective to provide supplies, set up facilities,” Lewis said.

The pandemic has been hard on those who are separated from loved ones by the border.

Jennifer Bignell lives near Quebec City. She says the ongoing border closure has taken a toll on her family, as her partner is American and lives in the U.S. She hasn’t seen him or his children in Vermont in nearly a year.

“In my case, I just feel like the pandemic has just stolen the very little time we have together already and that’s time I can never get back,” Bignell told CTV News.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says some Canadians can apply for a special exception to the new rules and that border officials will assess each person on a case-by-case basis. 

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Best Buy cuts 5000 jobs, including 750 in Canada – CTV News

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NEW YORK —
Best Buy said Thursday that it laid off 5,000 full-time store workers earlier this month, even as the company’s sales soared during the pandemic as homebound people bought laptops, TVs and other gadgets.

The company said it cut the jobs because more shoppers are choosing to buy online instead of coming inside its stores. Best Buy said it will replace the 5,000 full-time employees with 2,000 part-time workers.

The company said 750 positions were impacted in Canada, of which 660 were part-time.

Best Buy’s workforce has shrunk in the last year after having to furlough workers when it closed stores during the pandemic. It currently has more than 100,000 workers, down by 21,000, or 17%, from the year before.

The company is retraining workers to help with online orders. And more space in stores is being used to ship orders or to get them ready for curbside pickup, where shoppers buy online and fetch their orders in the parking lot.

A group of workers has posted an online petition calling for Best Buy to compensate employees for lost wages related to cuts. The petition said the company had begun drastically reducing the hours of employees at 150 stores on Jan. 10. About 792 of the nearly 4,000 signatures were from Best Buy workers, said Shannon Fulfs, the petition organizer who works at a Best Buy in the Omaha, Nebraska area.

Fulfs said workers struggled with the sudden loss of income of up to 40% and uncertainty about what to do because they were not told whether the reductions would be permanent. On Thursday, she learned she had been laid off.

“It’s just overall been pretty stressful and I don’t think they have been making it easier with the lack of information,” Fulfs said.

Best Buy said it was “not realistic to pay employees for hours they didn’t work, which is what a small number are asking for in this petition.”

“We told the petitioners that we disagree with their claim, but fully support their right to make it,” the company said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. “Like any retailer, our business model has always allowed us to adjust staffing to meet customer demand.”

The company’s online sales soared 89% from November to the end of January, compared with the same months a year ago, Best Buy said Thursday.

Revenue during that quarter grew 11% to $16.9 billion. Its profit rose nearly 10% to $816 million. Its adjusted earnings per share came to $3.48 per share, beating Wall Street expectations.

Sales online and at established stores, a key metric of a retailer’s health, rose 12.6% in the last quarter and increased 9.7% last year. It expects that number to rise 20% in the current quarter, but growth is expected to slow this year to fall 2% or rise as much as 1%.

Best Buy shares fell nearly 6% to $107.05 in morning trading Thursday.

——–

AP Business Writer Alexandra Olson in New York contributed to this report.

With files from CTV News

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Canada Post urging Canadians to reach out to loved ones – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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SYDNEY, N.S. —

Canada Post is urging Canadians to reach out to loved ones with a free, postage-paid postcard that will soon be arriving in mailboxes across the country.

Some 13.5 million postcards are expected to start arriving March 1, which can be used to send a special message to anyone, anywhere in Canada.

Every household across the country will receive one of six specially designed postcards that can be used.

“Meaningful connection is vital for our emotional health, sense of community and overall well-being,” said Doug Ettinger, president and CEO of Canada Post, in a news release.

“Canada Post wants everyone to stay safe, but also stay in touch with the people who matter to them.”

The postcards are part of the “Write Here Write Now” program that was launched in September 2020 to encourage Canadians to use letter writing to connect in a heartfelt way.

Messages on the cards include “I miss you,” “I’ve been meaning to write,” Wishing I were there,” and “Sending hugs.”

Those who send the cards are encouraged to share photos and video of sending and receiving their postcards using #WriteHereWriteNow.

For more details on the program visit: canadapost.ca/writenow.

The campaign is similar to one announced by Engage Nova Scotia, “From Me to You.” That campaign urges provincial residents to send a cheery note to strangers and friends alike.

It is hoped the notes will be used by multiple sectors from businesses to individuals as a way to reach out to others in a time of a global pandemic. Public health restrictions across the country have now been in place for nearly a year in a bid to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Such restrictions include limitations on the number of people gathering both indoors and outdoors and have also curtailed travelling between provinces with the exception of essential workers.

Both programs are hoped to provide a measure of comfort for those having reduced contact with family and friends.

To learn more, visit https://engagenovascotia.ca/from-me-to-you.

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Australia's standoff with Facebook has lessons for Canada, publisher says – CBC.ca

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Canada should move quickly on legislation to make Facebook and Google pay for news content, because it was only when Australia began taking action that the digital giants responded with deals, says the head of the association representing the Canadian news media industry.

“If these companies will only act once legislation is imminent, then we’d like to see legislation sooner rather than later,” said Bob Cox, chair of News Media Canada and publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press.

Australia’s Parliament on Thursday passed the final amendments to the so-called News Media Bargaining Code that forces Google and Facebook to pay for news. Last week, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said Canada would introduce its own rules in the coming months.

How Canada proceeds will likely have a major impact on the future of news in the country. Cox said Google and Facebook have so much power in the marketplace that it makes it impossible for small players to to compete. And they’re so big — Google parent Alphabet had about $180 billion US in revenue last year — that almost everyone is a small player.

In Australia, the digital giants won’t be able to make take-it-or-leave-it payment offers to news businesses for their journalism. Instead, in the case of a standoff, an arbitration panel would make a binding decision on a winning offer. A last-minute amendment gave digital platforms one month’s notice before they are formally designated under the code, giving the parties more time to broker agreements before they are forced to enter binding arbitration arrangements.

In return for the changes, Facebook agreed to lift a ban on Australians accessing and sharing news on their platform. Google had already struck deals with major Australian news businesses in recent weeks, including News Corp.

Canada’s news media industry has come out hard against Facebook and asked the government for more regulation of tech companies to allow the industry to recoup financial losses it has suffered in the years that Facebook and Google have been steadily gaining greater market shares of advertising.

‘They basically forced Facebook’

Cox said Facebook and Google had been reluctant to make any deals with publishers until Australia “forcefully” pushed forward, and it worked.

“They basically forced Facebook and Google to work with that legislation,” he said. “Now Facebook managed to get some changes to the legislation, but basically they’ll still be required to negotiate deals with publishers and that’s the end goal.”

WATCH | Newspaper publisher on making tech giants pay for news:

Bob Cox, publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press, says local news could be in trouble if the government doesn’t take bold action. 6:09

Cox said he gives credit to Google and Facebook for programs they’ve enacted to support journalism, including training, grants and tools. Facebook announced on Wednesday that it would raise its funding of news publishers to $1 billion over three years, and the company estimates that the traffic it sends to news websites contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the Canadian news industry.

“What they haven’t done, though, is pay for content, and that’s what we’ve been trying to get them to do,” he said.

Google recently announced a willingness to pay for content through its Google News Showcase licensing model, but it hasn’t begun to operate yet, Cox said. In a statement, Meg Sinclair, head of communications for Facebook Canada, said the company is “exploring” investments in news licensing and programs to support sustainability of journalism in Canada, but isn’t in any discussions about specific licensing agreements. 

Chris Moos, a lecturer at Oxford University’s Business School, said the last-minute amendments in Australia’s legislation amounted to a “small victory” for Facebook.

Moos said the legislation would likely result in small payouts for most Australian news publishers. But Facebook could again block Australian news if negotiations broke down.

Andrea Carson, an associate professor in the department of communication and media at La Trobe University in Melbourne, agreed, but also said the government had gotten what it wanted.

What Canada can learn

As for what can be learned from Australia’s situation, Carson said Canada should consider whether Australia took the right approach.

“There are other mechanisms for doing this, such as putting a tax on digital advertising,” she said. “Maybe other countries might consider that rather than looking through competition law, which is what Australia’s done.”

Carson also suggested countries should make certain the money is used to fund public-interest journalism, a guarantee that doesn’t exist under the Australian system.

“It goes into the larger pool of News Corp.,” she said.

WATCH | Facebook and Australia are in a standoff. Is Canada next?

Facebook blocked news posts for Australian users as the government plans to make technology companies pay for sharing news content. There are concerns something similar could happen to Canadians. 7:37

Guilbeault, who could not be reached for comment on Thursday, has promised a “made-in-Canada” approach. 

“We need to find a solution that is sustainable for news publishers, small and large, digital platforms, and for the health of our democracy,” he said on Tuesday.

There have been concerns in Australia that smaller publications might miss out while the tech giants focus on big players, a “real danger” that Cox said should be dealt with in any legislation.

“The main reason why we’ve always argued that government action is necessary [is] so that it helps the entire industry and helps support local news across the country, as opposed to simply the bigger publishers who have had access to Facebook and Google for a long time anyway,” he said.

Disclosure: CBC/Radio-Canada has business partnerships with Facebook for content distribution and with Google for services that encompass mobile distribution, data storage and communication tools.

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