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Ontario premier pitches province as electric vehicle powerhouse, but won't reintroduce rebates – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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TORONTO — Doug Ford is pitching Ontario as the next electric vehicle manufacturing powerhouse, seemingly a far cry from the premier who three years ago cancelled incentives for people to buy them.

Where some see contradiction, others see calculated election strategy.

Shortly after coming to power in 2018, Ford’s government scrapped Ontario’s cap-and-trade system, and with it the electric vehicle rebates funded by that program.

He also stopped building charging stations – the provincial transit agency even removed some – and dropped a requirement for new homes to include the wiring for potential EV chargers.

Ford at the time decried the rebates of up to $14,000 as subsidizing purchases for wealthy buyers – and he still does, mostly.

“Before the election I didn’t believe in giving millionaires rebates on over $100,000 Tesla cars,” he said last month. “I just didn’t believe in it. Let’s see how the market dictates.”

In the year after the rebate cancellations, the market for electric vehicles tanked in Ontario. At its highest point, electric-vehicles made up around three per cent of the province’s total passenger vehicle sales. That dropped to below one per cent after the rebate was scrapped.

The introduction of a federal rebate saw Ontario’s electric-vehicle sales begin to climb again. The most recent data from Statistics Canada puts the numbers back to nearly where they were before the provincial cancellation.

But that is still well below levels seen in provinces with their own rebates, such as British Columbia and Quebec, which are seeing electric-vehicle sales of about 13 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively.

Electric-vehicle advocates say Ontario can’t be a leader in manufacturing while being a laggard in sales.

Joanna Kyriazis, senior policy adviser at Clean Energy Canada, said a recently announced Ontario auto strategy was more friendly to electric vehicles than she would have expected, but it’s missing the second half of the equation.

“I do think that there’s been a recent shift in the Ford government’s view of electric vehicles, at least on the manufacturing side,” she said.

Ontario’s “Driving Prosperity” plan focuses on repositioning the province’s auto sector to build electric vehicles, as well as establishing battery production here, taking advantage of critical minerals found in the Ring of Fire. It aims to build at least 400,000 electric vehicles and hybrids by 2030.

Ontario has secured investments from big automakers such as Ford and GM to build new electric vehicles at their facilities in the province in the coming years, and the premier is looking to attract more.

“Our government knows it and the auto industry knows it: Ontario is the No. 1 place in the world to build the cars and trucks of the future,” Ford said when he announced the strategy last month.

There is a section on encouraging electric vehicle adoption, but is mostly limited to establishing a Transportation Electrification Council to seek advice on ways to do that. Without more work to encourage domestic sales, most of the electric vehicles eventually produced in Ontario would just be shipped elsewhere, Kyriazis said.

“Producing more EVs in Ontario will not directly translate into more EV sales in Ontario unless there’s more support for consumers to go electric,” she said.

Acting on the manufacturing side but not the consumer side is contradictory, said Daniel Breton, president and CEO of Electric Mobility Canada.

“If Ontario wants to be a leader, it’s not a buffet where you pick and choose what you decide to do,” he said.

“Rebates do make a difference. They don’t have to be $14,000, but if people see a decent rebate or even tax credit I think it does make a difference, not only in a financial point of view. There’s a social point of view that says the government is really promoting the transition to electric vehicles.”

But the political aim of this government, strategists say, is the focus on jobs.

Ford is trying to secure manufacturing in regions like Oakville and Windsor, whereas Liberals look at the issue through a consumer and environmental lens, said Andrew Steele, a vice-president at consulting firm StrategyCorp.

“If you’re looking at it as, ‘I need these kinds of jobs to stay here in Ontario, that’s my critical preoccupation,’ you’re going to spend time thinking about incentives to bring jobs here,” said Steele, a former senior Liberal staffer.

“I think (Ford’s) agnostic to fuel type. That’s where the market is going, so we need to get there for jobs.”

David Tarrant, Ford’s former executive director of strategic communications, said there is a “powerful end-to-end story” Ford can tell about electric-vehicle manufacturing in Ontario, starting with the critical minerals found in the Ring of Fire.

It also gives Ford the opportunity, in the run-up to the June election, to talk about manufacturing job losses under the former Liberal government, and their heavily criticized rebates that went to drivers of luxury electric vehicles, he said.

“What we’re talking about is how Ontario from the manufacturing side and the supply side can actually drive and support this kind of revolution in electric vehicles, create a bunch of jobs, rather than using Ontario taxpayers’ money to support the purchase of vehicles that were manufactured elsewhere,” said Tarrant, now a vice-president at Enterprise, a strategic communications firm.

Jeff Crumb and his family outside Kitchener, Ont., are in the market for a new car and are leaning toward electric. He said the choice would be a lot easier if there was a provincial incentive to cut the purchase price.

“If there was a rebate in place it would be a no-brainer. We would do it immediately,” he said.

An election promise from the Ontario Liberals caught Crumb’s eye, though he’s not able to wait to see the outcome of the June 2 vote before making his next vehicle purchase.

The Liberals are promising a rebate of up to $8,000 on electric vehicles that cost up to $55,000. The New Democrats are promising so-far unspecified rebates for non-luxury electric vehicles.

“When the price of an electric vehicle is, you know, 10 or 15 or $20,000 more than a gas-powered vehicle, it does make that decision really tough,” Crumb said.

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Gloomy Netflix forecast erases much of stock’s pandemic gains

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Netflix Inc dashed hopes for a quick rebound after forecasting weak first-quarter subscriber growth on Thursday, sending shares sinking nearly 20% and wiping away most of its remaining pandemic-fueled gains from 2020.

The world’s largest streaming service projected it would add 2.5 million customers from January through March, less than half of the 5.9 million analysts had forecast, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Netflix tempered its growth expectations, citing the late arrival of anticipated content, such as the second season of “Bridgerton” and the Ryan Reynolds time-travel movie “The Adam Project.”

Shares of Netflix plummeted nearly 20% to $408.13 in after-hours trading. Competitor Walt Disney Co, which has staked its future on building a strong streaming business, saw its shares sink 4%. Streaming device Roku Inc fell 5%.

Nasdaq futures dropped almost 1%, showing trad

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Pfizer's newly approved COVID-19 antiviral pills arrive at Queensway Carleton Hospital – Ottawa Citizen

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Pfizer’s Paxlovid treatment has been approved to treat mild to moderate COVID in adult cases where the patient has tested positive and is at high risk of getting severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.

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The Queensway Carleton Hospital has received 700 courses of Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill, the first take-home medication for treating COVID-19.

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Health Canada announced the prescription antiviral treatment was approved on Monday. Each course of treatment involves two antiviral drugs, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir. The treatment consists of two oral tablets of nirmatrelvir and one of ritonavir, taken together twice a day for five days.

The province says 15 hospitals will be receiving Paxlovid. For now, it’s unclear how it will be distributed, although the Public Health Agency of Canada has released preliminary guidelines for categories of patients to be prioritized.

Until now, COVID-19 medications were given intravenously or by injection in a hospital or health-care settings. Paxlovid is expected to be in high demand, but the global supply is limited.

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The Queensway Carleton Hospital is actively working on creating a regional process with other hospitals, led by director of pharmacy Joe Dagenais, to identify which patients are eligible and the criteria they need to meet to receive this treatment, hospital spokesperson Kelly Spence said. Dagenais is also head of the regional pharmacy committee and is spearheading regional plans.

  1. Pfizer’s antiviral treatment for COVID-19 is approved for adult patients with mild or moderate symptoms at high risk of becoming more seriously ill.

    Health Canada approves Pfizer anti-viral pill for treatment of COVID-19

  2. (FILES) This file handout photo courtesy of Pfizer shows the making of its Covid-19 antiviral pills inside a laboratory in Freiburg, Germany.

    Experts stress Pfizer’s antiviral COVID-19 treatment not a replacement for vaccines

“We are waiting to receive patient eligibility guidance from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Table, hopefully coming this week,” Spence said.

Ontario expects to receive about 10,000 courses of treatment from the federal government in January, Ministry of Health spokesperson W.D. Lighthall said in a statement.

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“Based on the limited supply we expect to receive from the federal government, we have worked with our hospital partners and are prepared for distribution of antivirals at 15 sites across the province as soon we receive them.”

Initially, the medication will be prioritized for adults with the highest risk of severe outcomes, including immunocompromised patients, Lighthall said.

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The Ontario Medical Association is seeking more details but understands clinical assessment centres may have key roles in prioritizing testing and eligibility and ensuring timely delivery, spokesperson Leslie Shepherd said.

Manotick physician Dr. Alykhan Abdulla, past chair of the association’s section on general and family practice, said family physicians are still learning more about these medications and support the province’s plan at this time.

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“We want to have access to prescribing these medications in a month or so.”

Health Canada received the Paxlovid submission from Pfizer on Dec. 1 and conducted an expedited review, including information confirming its effectiveness against the Omicron variant.

Paxlovid has been approved to treat mild to moderate COVID in adult cases where the patient has tested positive and is at high risk of getting severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.

It’s not approved for patients who are already hospitalized or to prevent COVID. Paxlovid can’t be used more than five days in a row and has not been approved for those under 18 years old.

The Public Health Agency of Canada’s interim set of guidelines for prioritizing patients includes those who have the highest likelihood of severe illness, including patients who are immunocompromised, regardless of their vaccination status, as well as those over the age of 80 whose vaccinations are not up to date.

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Patients over 60 who live in underserved rural or remote communities, long-term care homes, First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities are also prioritized under the interim guidelines.

Pfizer reported in November that Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 per cent compared with a placebo in high-risk adults who were not hospitalized.

Health Canada’s review found the benefits outweigh potential risks, but also cautioned that Paxlovid has the potential to interact with other prescription drugs.

Health officials also said public health measures and vaccinations remain key ways to prevent infection, and no drug is a substitute for vaccination.

Paxlovid could help keep thousands of people out of hospitals, Lighthall said.

“The arrival of these pills gives us increased confidence as we continue to review key indicators and data to determine when we can begin safely and gradually lifting public health measures, and we look forward to providing additional details in the near future.”

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Amazon to open fashion store where algorithms suggest what to try on

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Amazon.com Inc’s recipe for the department store of the future includes algorithmic recommendations and what one corporate director called “a magic closet” in the fitting room.

The online retailer is making another push to grow its fashion business, announcing on Thursday it will open its first-ever apparel store this year, with a tech twist. “We wouldn’t do anything in physical retail unless we felt we could significantly improve the customer experience,” said Simoina Vasen, a managing director.

At 30,000 square feet (2,787 sq meters), the planned “Amazon Style” shop near Los Angeles is smaller than the typical department store. Model items are on the racks, and customers scan a code using Amazon’s mobile app to select the color and size they would like. To try on the clothes, which are stored in the back, shoppers enter a virtual queue for a fitting room that they unlock with their smartphone when it is ready.

Inside, the dressing room is “a personal space for you to continue shopping without ever having to leave,” Vasen said. Each has a touchscreen letting shoppers request more items that staff deliver to a secure, two-sided closet “within minutes,” she said.

“It’s like a magic closet with seemingly endless selection,” Vasen said.

The touchscreens suggest items to shoppers too. Amazon keeps a record of every good a customer scans so its algorithms personalize clothing recommendations. Shoppers can fill out a style survey as well. By the time they arrive in a fitting room, employees have already deposited customers’ requested items and others that Amazon has picked.

Shoppers can opt out with a concierge’s help, Amazon said.

Amazon has unveiled tech to help customers choose outfits before. The company has surpassed Walmart Inc as the most-shopped clothing retailer in the United States, according to analyst research.

But it still has room to expand and compete with the likes of Macy’s Inc and Nordstrom Inc, which have opened smaller-format stores. Amazon’s lineup of physical grocery and convenience shops have yet to upend brick-and-mortar retail.

The company’s new store aims to attract a broad range of shoppers with hundreds of brands, Vasen said, declining to name examples.

It has hundreds of associates, and no cashier-less checkout like some Amazon stores, Vasen said. Still, using a biometric system known as Amazon One, customers can pay with a swipe of their palm.

 

(Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in Palo Alto, California; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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