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Plane carrying doses of COVID-19 vaccines for kids touches down in Canada – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press


Published Sunday, November 21, 2021 3:22PM EST


Last Updated Sunday, November 21, 2021 7:43PM EST

HAMILTON – The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines for children landed in Canada on Sunday, clearing the way for provinces and territories to gear up in earnest for the next phase of the national mass immunization campaign.

A UPS plane bearing thousands of pediatric doses touched down in the rain at an airport in Hamilton, with federal Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi on hand to mark its arrival.

Tassi clapped and cheered as workers unloaded massive grey containers from the upper deck of the plane.

Sunday’s delivery marks the first in an accelerated shipment of vaccines geared toward children between the ages of five and 11.

Health Canada announced Friday that it had approved a modified version of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in that demographic, and Ottawa immediately promised some shots would be on Canadian soil 48 hours later.

Tassi said on Friday that Canada would have 2.9 million doses in hand by the end of the week, enough to offer a first dose to every child in the newly approved age bracket.

Health Canada’s approval came following a month-long review of safety and efficacy data from the pharmaceutical giants.

The regulator said the vaccine, which is administered in a smaller dose than the adult version and has a slightly different formula, was 90.7 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 in children and produced no identified serious side effects.

Provinces welcomed both the vaccine’s approval and imminent arrival, but largely held off on disclosing plans for getting shots into children’s arms until supplies had arrived.

New Brunswick issued a statement Sunday saying vaccine eligibility will be expanded to include children aged five to 11 as soon as supply of the pediatric doses are received, but the province didn’t offer information about when that’s expected.

Many public health units in Ontario hadn’t updated their rollout plans as of Sunday afternoon, with regions including Peel, Windsor-Essex and Waterloo saying Friday that appointments were expected to open up early this week.

The Region of Durham said Friday it anticipated opening booking sites on Monday, while Toronto Public Health issued a statement Friday saying it was preparing to open 20,000 slots between Nov. 25 and Dec. 5 at city-run immunization clinics.

Manitoba was one of few jurisdictions to release booking information before Sunday. The province announced Friday that parents and caregivers could start making first-dose appointments for eligible kids by phone or online as of 6 a.m. Monday.

Sean Sedlacek, a father in Winnipeg, said he’ll try to nab an appointment for his five-year-old son as soon as slots open up.

Sedlacek said he and his wife felt “an incredible sense of relief” Friday when news broke that Health Canada had authorized the pediatric vaccine from Pfizer.

Sedlacek and his wife booked appointments to get themselves vaccinated once they were eligible earlier this year, and said they want to do the same for their only child.

“We really just want to get him as protected as possible,” he said. “I know the risks are a lot lower for younger kids, but you can’t control what other people are doing. I just want to make sure I’m doing as much as I possibly can to keep our family protected.”

In British Columbia, meanwhile, parents have already been able to pre-register their child for an appointment online or by phone. The province said more than 75,000 children had registered as of Friday, putting them on a list to be contacted for an appointment when booking opens.

Alberta announced a similar pre-registration program, adding that the province should start administering shots late this week provided the doses arrive as expected.

Saskatchewan is scheduled to release details Monday about its plans to vaccinate the approximately 115,000 children who are in the five-to 11-age group. Health and education officials are working to set up clinics at schools, and Education Minister Dustin Duncan said last week the government is also working on a plan to ensure anti-vaccination protesters don’t turn up at schools as they have at hospitals.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube, meanwhile, said Friday that the province’s immunization plan would be unveiled this week, adding he hoped to have 700,000 children in the approved age range vaccinated with their first dose by Christmas.

Some public health units are setting up vaccine clinics in schools and expanding existing mass vaccination sites. Pharmacies and family doctors’ offices are also expected to offer jabs in some jurisdictions.

Toronto has said hundreds of schools in Ontario’s most populous city will host clinics, but vaccines won’t be given out during class time.

Children are not to be vaccinated without parental consent.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children on Oct. 29 and the United States has already immunized more than two million kids.

Dr. Samira Jeimy, an allergist and immunologist with Western University in London, Ont., said it can be frustrating for eager parents to be told they have to wait to book vaccine appointments for their kids.

“I don’t blame parents who have been waiting at the edge of their seats – like me,” she said in an interview Saturday. “I understand from the point of view of trying to keep things organized, but I feel like we should really have been ready to mobilize things.”

– With files from Melissa Couto Zuber in Toronto and Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 21, 2021.

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RBC hiking dividend, buying back shares despite Q4 profit miss – BNN

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Royal Bank of Canada announced a dividend hike and plans to repurchase tens of millions of its shares on Wednesday despite also reporting quarterly profit that trailed expectations. 

In a release, RBC said it will raise its quarterly dividend 11 per cent to $1.20 per share. The bank said it’s also seeking approval from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) to buy back up to 45 million of its common shares.

It’s the second such move this week, after Bank of Nova Scotia similarly announced plans for a buyback and dividend hike on Tuesday. Both banks are doing so after OSFI recently lifted its pandemic-era prohibition on share repurchases and buybacks. 

RBC also said on Wednesday its 2021 fiscal year profit climbed 40 per cent year-over-year to $16.1 billion. In the fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Oct. 31, the bank’s net income rose 20 per cent to $3.89 billion. That bottom-line performance was helped in part by a release of $227 million from funds that were previously set aside for loans that could go bad. It’s the third consecutive quarter that RBC moved cash out of its provisions for credit losses and funneled that money into its profit stream. 

On an adjusted basis, the quarterly profit worked out to $2.71 per share. Analysts, on average, were expecting $2.81. 

“Our overall  performance  in  2021  reflected  strong  earnings,  premium  shareholder performance,  and  highlighted  our ability to successfully  navigate  a  complex  operating  environment  while  continuing  to  invest  in  talent  and  innovations  to  support  future growth,” said Dave McKay, RBC’s president and chief executive, in a release. 

RBC’s bread-and-butter personal and commercial banking unit was the primary profit driver in the latest quarter, as net income in that division rose 35 per cent year-over-year to $2.03 billion, in part thanks to the release of $208 million that was previously provisioned for potentially sour loans.  

Royal Bank’s domestic banking business also benefitted from double-digit growth in its mortgage book. Indeed, in a supplemental release Wednesday, RBC said it had an average Canadian mortgage balance of $329.5 billion in the fourth quarter; that represents year-over-year growth of almost 13 per cent compared to the balance of $293 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter of 2020. 

Fourth-quarter profit from the bank’s capital markets unit rose 10 per cent to $920 million, with RBC attributing some of that to a rise in mergers and acquisitions activity. 

Meanwhile, earnings from RBC’s wealth management business inched up two per cent year-over-year to $558 million.

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Ontario passes new rules aimed at work-life balance for employees – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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The Ontario government has passed new laws it says will help employees disconnect from the office and create a better work-life balance.

On Tuesday, the government said it passed the “Working for Workers Act,” which requires Ontario businesses with 25 people or more to have a written policy about employees’ rights when it comes to disconnecting from their job at the end of the day.

These workplace policies could include, for example, expectations about response time for emails and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they aren’t working, the government says.

According to the act, between January 1 and March 1 of each year an employer must ensure it has a written policy in place for all employees with respect to disconnecting from work.

“We are determined to rebalance the scales and put workers in the driver’s seat of Ontario’s economic growth while attracting the best workers to our great province,” Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, said in a statement Tuesday.

The act also bans the use of non-compete clauses, which prevent people from exploring other work opportunities and higher salaries at other jobs.

According to the government, Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada, and one of the first in North America, to ban non-compete agreements in employment.

McNaughton says the new laws not only protects workers’ rights, but also will help to attract top talent and investments to the province.

The act also removes “unfair” work experience requirements for foreign-trained immigrants trying to work in their professions. 

It also introduces a mandatory licencing framework for temporary help agencies and recruiters to help prevent labour trafficking.

“This legislation is another step towards building back a better province and cementing Ontario’s position as a global leader, for others to follow, as the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family,” McNaughton said.

A government spokesperson told CTV News Toronto that while the act has not yet received royal assent, it is expected to later this week.

Timelines for when each law under the Working For Workers Act will come into effect have not been announced yet and the government said it there will be a initial grace period for businesses.

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Asian factories shake off supply headaches but Omicron presents new risks

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Asian factory activity grew in November as crippling supply bottlenecks eased, but rising input costs and renewed weakness in China dampened the region’s prospects for an early, sustained recovery from pandemic paralysis.

The newly detected Omicron coronavirus variant has also emerged as a fresh worry for the region’s policymakers, who are already grappling with the challenge of steering their economies out of the doldrums while trying to tame inflation amid rising commodity costs and parts shortages.

China’s factory activity fell back into contraction in November, the private Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showed on Wednesday, as soft demand and elevated prices hurt manufacturers.

The findings from the private-sector survey, which focuses more on small firms in coastal regions, stood in contrast with those in China’s official PMI on Tuesday that showed manufacturing activity unexpectedly rose in November, albeit at a very modest pace.

“Relaxing constraints on the supply side, especially the easing of the power crunch, quickened the pace of production recovery,” said Wang Zhe, senior economist at Caixin Insight Group, in a statement accompanying the data release.

“But demand was relatively weak, suppressed by the COVID-19 epidemic and rising product prices.”

Beyond China, however, factory activity seemed to be on the mend with PMIs showing expansion in countries ranging from Japan, South Korea, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Japan’s PMI rose to 54.5 in November, up from 53.2 in October, the fastest pace of expansion in nearly four years.

South Korea’s PMI edged up to 50.9 from 50.2 in October, holding above the 50-mark threshold that indicates expansion in activity for a 14th straight month.

But output shrank in South Korea for a second straight month as Asia’s fourth-largest economy struggles to fully regain momentum in the face of persistent supply chain disruptions.

“Overall, with new export orders flooding back to countries previously hamstrung by Delta outbreaks and the disruption further down the supply chain still working through, there is plenty of scope for a continued rebound in regional industry,” said Alex Holmes, emerging Asia economist at Capital Economics.

India’s manufacturing activity grew at the fastest pace in 10 months in November, buoyed by a strong pick-up in demand.

Vietnam’s PMI rose to 52.2 in November from 52.1 in October, while that of the Philippines increased to 51.7 from 51.0.

Taiwan’s manufacturing activity continued to expand in November but at a slower pace, with the index hitting 54.9 compared with 55.2 in October. The picture was similar for Indonesia, which saw PMI ease to 53.9 from 57.2 in October.

The November surveys likely did not reflect the spread of the Omicron variant that could add further pressure on pandemic-disrupted supply chains, with many countries imposing fresh border controls to seal themselves off.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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