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Snowbirds in pandemic hot seat with Canada's latest travel rules – CTV News

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VANCOUVER —
The latest rules for travellers arriving in Canada are ruffling feathers among snowbirds wintering south of the border, while those who stayed home wonder why thousands opted to travel during the pandemic.

Valorie Crooks, Canada research chair in health service geographies, said everyone has had access to the same public health information and snowbirds who flocked south “did what they felt was allowable.”

There is no ban on travel and snowbirds don’t think of themselves as vacationers, said Crooks, a professor at Simon Fraser University who’s done research for years with snowbird communities in Florida and Arizona.

“They’re viewing this as part of their life or lifestyle,” she said, noting snowbirds relocate for extended periods of time and they’re used to factoring health considerations into their decision-making.

Some snowbirds feel late government communication on travel during the pandemic has left them hanging, said Crooks, as stricter requirements come into force in days ahead for anyone arriving in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week that anyone arriving in Canada by land must present negative COVID-19 test results starting Monday. Those without the requisite test results could be fined up to $3,000.

Travellers arriving by air have been required to show the results of a molecular (PCR) test no more than three days old since last month.

The Canadian Snowbird Association has decried an added requirement that air travellers take a second test upon arrival and stay in a hotel for around three days while awaiting results, with a potential price tag of $2,000 each.

In a recent letter to the federal transportation minister, president Karen Huestis wrote the cost of the hotel stay poses financial hardship for many and travellers who test negative should be able to quarantine in their homes.

Those arriving in Canada by land won’t be required to quarantine in a hotel.

It’s unclear when air travellers will start being ushered into hotels near one of the four Canadian airports currently accepting international flights in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. Hotels had until Wednesday to apply to be among those on a list inbound passengers may choose from.

The prospect of quarantining in a hotel sent some snowbirds flying back to Canada early, while others take their chances or extend their southern stays.

Dr. Morley Rubinoff, 71, said he left his condo in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, about six weeks early this year to avoid what he called “hotel hell.”

The semi-retired dental specialist said he arrived in Mexico on Dec. 31 and planned to stay until mid-March before returning to Toronto.

Rubinoff said he wore a mask “constantly” and had very little contact with anyone while in Mexico, setting him apart from tourists at nearby resorts.

“We’re not the same,” he said, adding he has permanent residency in Mexico.

Rubinoff said he believes the latest travel rules are mainly aimed at preventing short trips by vacationers over holidays in February and March, while snowbirds should be recognized as a distinct group.

Denise Dumont, a Canadian who lives full time in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., echoed Rubinoff, saying snowbirds “don’t act like regular visitors.”

“I don’t think it is fair to treat them like a simple visitor who will go for an all-inclusive two-week vacation in Mexico,” said Dumont, the editor in chief of Le Soleil de la Floride, an online source for francophone news in Florida.

Dumont would like to see an exemption to the hotel stay so that snowbirds returning to Canada with a negative COVID-19 test and proof they’ve been vaccinated against the illness may go straight home to quarantine.

Toronto-based insurance broker Martin Firestone said he’s advised against travelling during the pandemic, but more than a thousand of his snowbird clients are abroad and they’re all opposed to the hotel quarantine.

He said about a third of his clients headed south in November and hundreds more were spurred on in January by the accessibility of COVID-19 vaccine in Florida for people age 65 and older, though Firestone is careful not to count his clients among “vaccine tourists,” since most own property there.

Some of Firestone’s clients are extending their travel insurance in hopes of returning to Canada when travel rules are relaxed, but he noted Canadians may only stay in the United States for 182 days per year before having to file U.S. taxes or potentially putting their Canadian health insurance at risk.

“I’m very wary to tell all clients who are extending, if you went down in November, I have concerns that you’re still sitting there in May and June because you’re waiting to avoid this three-day hotel thing.”

He’s also concerned clients who buy travel insurance to cover treatment in case of illness or injury unrelated to COVID-19 could encounter hospitals where resources are stretched to the limit due to the pandemic.

There are many reasons behind snowbirds’ decisions to travel to warmer climates each year, including during the pandemic, said Crooks.

“You get a lot of people discussing things like improved arthritis symptoms, even changes to the amount of medication that is required.”

Others have planned their retirement finances around “snowbirding” and the pandemic has not changed that budgetary reality, she said.

Crooks said she believes snowbirds are a distinct group needing tailored messaging that addresses specific concerns related to their return to Canada “with all the baggage that entails,” including pets, for example.

—-

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2021.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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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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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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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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