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Times are tough for Canada's self-proclaimed french fry capital –



For the past few years, Ottawa’s Carole Richard has made an annual pilgrimage with her friends to the small town of Alfred, Ont., to sample the local spuds.

The village of about 1,200 people on County Road 17 — about 70 kilometres east of Ottawa — is, after all, the self-proclaimed french fry capital of Canada.

“I like small fries like these, well-cooked, a little dry,” said Richard, pausing between bites at the Landriault Snack Bar. “They’re super good.”

These days, however, fried potato enthusiasts like Richard only have one local option for satiating their cravings. Of the multiple chip stands and canteens that once dotted the village, only one — the Landriault Snack Bar — still remains.

“When we [were] here 10, 11 years ago, there were four,” owner Bruce Forget recently told Radio-Canada in a French-language interview.

“They all disappeared quietly,” he said.

Bruce Forget, owner of the Landriault Snack Bar in Alfred, Ont., is the lone remaining french fry shack operator in the small eastern Ontario village. (Radio-Canada)

Some in Alfred trace the decline of the fry shacks to the arrival of a Tim Hortons franchise at the village’s entrance.

Others cite the 2012 completion of Highway 50 on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, which allowed motorists travelling between the National Capital Region and Montreal to bypass County Road 17 altogether.

There’s also the simple fact that the french fry business is hard work — one of the main reasons that Suzanne Villeneuve, owner of Miss Alfred, decided not to open her doors this winter.

Had she done so, her canteen would have celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.

Empty tables sit outside the now-closed Miss Alfred french fry canteen in Alfred, Ont. The village, which once proclaimed itself as Canada’s french fry capital, has only one canteen left in operation. (Denis Babin/Radio-Canada)

“People can’t imagine [how busy it is],” Villeneuve told Radio-Canada in French, noting that all the food at Miss Alfred was homemade.

“It was 12 hours a day [six days a week]. On the seventh, you changed the oil and then finally took care of your own business.”

As for Forget, he agrees that running a fry shack is hard work — and is well aware that, when it comes to the village’s crispy claim to fame, he’s the only one left keeping it alive.

“I’m the last of the Mohicans,” he laughed.

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Canada extends peacekeeping mission despite Security Council loss –



Canada will provide a military transport plane to support United Nations peacekeeping missions for another year despite losing its bid for a temporary seat on the UN Security Council.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office confirmed the continued deployment of a CC-130 Hercules in support of UN missions in Africa on Sunday, ending months of speculation about the fate of the mission.

“The Canadian Armed Forces are playing an important role in transporting critical supplies and personnel to support the UN in the region,” Sajjan said in a statement to The Canadian Press.

“We understand the importance of Canada working with our international allies and partners like the United Nations, which is why we have renewed Canadian Armed Forces support for an additional year.”

Trudeau’s promise of peacekeeping troops unfulfilled

The Hercules, which has been based out of Uganda five days per month since August 2019, was one of three signature promises that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made to the UN when Canada hosted a major peacekeeping summit in November 2017.

Trudeau also promised the UN that Canada would provide a helicopter detachment, which operated in Mali from June 2018 to September 2019. He also pledged a quick reaction force comprised of up to 200 troops, which has yet to be fulfilled.

Many saw the promises as an attempt by the Liberal government to bolster its bid for a two-year seat on the UN Security Council, and there had been questions about the CC-130 after Canada lost to Norway and Ireland on the first ballot in June.

Sajjan also said that the Hercules recently resumed flights to and from Uganda after a four-month suspension due to COVID-19.

“Following a temporary operational pause due to COVID-19, the tactical detachment in Uganda has recently completed a 10-day mission out of Entebbe,” he said. The plane moved about 42 tonnes worth of cargo and 400 passengers, he said.

Hercules deployment is ‘pioneering’: expert

Canadian Forces College professor Walter Dorn, one of Canada’s foremost experts on peacekeeping, welcomed the extension, which he described as “pioneering” since the plane isn’t assigned to one specific UN mission but helps many in Africa.

“It’s a pioneering service,” he said. “The first national contribution for multi-operation air service in UN history, with operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan already serviced and other missions to be added.”

Dorn nonetheless lamented that the Hercules is only available for five days a month, even as he noted that Canada’s overall contribution to peacekeeping remains at an all-time low with 34 police officers and military personnel around the world.

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Canada's new COVID app won't work on older iPhones, Android devices – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



The federal government’s COVID-19 contact tracing app is facing criticism for its download requirements, which restrict some Canadians from accessing and using the app.

The free “COVID Alert” app, which became available on Friday, is designed to track the location of phones relative to each other, without collecting personal data anywhere centrally.

Users are notified if their phones have recently been near the phone of a person who later volunteers that they have tested positive for COVID-19.

But the app requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system.

Christopher Parsons, a senior research associate at Citizen Lab, part of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Policy, says that makes the app inaccessible for older Canadians and other marginalized groups.

“The worst affected by (the pandemic) are Black, Indigenous, people of colour, people who often have a lower socio-economic bracket. Who’s not going to be able to install the application? That same group … that’s a problem,” he said.

Parsons says criticism should be directed at the federal government, not those who designed the app.

He believes the technical aspects of the application, such as its ease of use and its performance in both official languages, has been done well.

“On the technical end, the developers deserve to be congratulated,” he said. “This is a failure of policy. The government should have seen this, I hope someone has, they should have predicted it, I hope someone has, and they should have done something to try and start fixing it.”

The issue of needing an app that works with older smartphones was known from the start, he added.

For a contact tracing app to properly work, he said, it requires 65 to 80 per cent of all Canadians to use it. The current version of the app makes that impossible.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat referred questions about the technical requirements of the app to Google and Apple, but noted the application is only one tool to slow the spread of COVID-19.

It did not address a question about a potential timeline for the issue to be fixed.

Ontario NDP legislator Marit Stiles took to Twitter to share her parents’ frustration in attempting to download the app.

Stiles’ parents, both in their 70s, tried to download the app on their older iPhones, but it didn’t work.

“They’re so frustrated that they can’t download the app, the app won’t work on their phone,” she said in an interview Sunday. “This kind of surprised me.”

Stiles said this raises some concerns about the accessibility for more vulnerable Canadians.

“I think everybody agrees the app isn’t a bad idea,” she said. “We know that elderly folks, seniors, new Canadians, racialized people are the most likely to contract or be affected by COVID-19 … then it might be a bit problematic that the app only works with the fanciest or priciest new phones.”

For now, the smart phone app is only linked to the Ontario health-care system, with the Atlantic provinces set to be the next provinces to link up.

Neither Apple nor Google returned requests for comment on the issue.

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COMMENTARY: Canada's coronavirus response has not been as great as we like to think – Global News



Judging by some polls, Canadians are happy with the way their leaders managed Canada’s response to COVID-19 or with how Ottawa, in particular, has doled out several hundred billion dollars of aid. Or both.

Canadians may regard their country’s response to the lethal virus as good, but the national death toll has surpassed 8,900. And there is statistical evidence aplenty to suggest that when compared with other countries, Canada’s performance is not exceptional. At best, it has been fair to middling.

However, as with so much else, Canada’s habitual fascination with the U.S. and its fixation on events there, seems to be all many Canadians care about.

READ MORE: How Canada’s first long-term coronavirus pandemic projections hold up today

To gain a broader perspective, it might be helpful if Canadians were to crunch some of the numbers published daily on the beautifully presented, somewhat U.S.-centric dashboard run by the medical school at Johns Hopkins University or the dowdier, more internationally-oriented Worldometers website, which is published out of Delaware.

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Canada ranks 23 in deaths and 63 in infections per capita among the 215 places tracked by Worldometers as of Aug. 1. That fares better than the U.K. (3 in deaths; 43 in infections) and the U.S. (10 for both), but also shows Canada has had less success than places such as Germany (40 in deaths; 74 in infections), Finland (62; 93), Poland (73; 97), Ukraine (79; 86), Japan (126; 157), Australia (127; 120), South Korea (137; 155), Malaysia (154; 156), New Zealand (158; 151), Thailand (178; 199), Taiwan (184; 205) and Vietnam (189; 212).

By every statistical measure, Canada has certainly done much better controlling the virus than the U.S. That has apparently been good enough for most Canadians who, according to public opinion surveys, think that their governments have been doing well and are optimistic about the recovery.

Many Canadians are aware that on a per capita basis, about 90 per cent more Americans have died than Canadians.

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Putting aside flattering comparisons with the U.S., Canada has got a lot wrong in its fight against the coronavirus.

Canada’s elder-care facilities are clearly far inferior to the often austere but rigorously clean and well-staffed homes for the aged in countries such as Finland and Norway. Official oversight of many of these institutions in Canada is much less robust.

READ MORE: Young people are causing COVID-19 spikes. But are they solely to blame?

Canada’s response to the pandemic has often been sluggish and confused. For several months, the federal government did not follow through on promises the prime minister had made that travellers would face serious questions about their health at our borders. Ottawa was also very slow to close those borders, made a hash of ensuring sufficient emergency supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks were available for essential workers and went back and forth for weeks about whether it was prudent for Canadians to wear masks when in public.

The federal and provincial governments did little at first to check whether Canadians returning from abroad were adhering to strict quarantine regulations. Compared with most Asian countries, it has had a woeful record in creating contact-tracing teams and contract-tracing apps.

While Canada’s death rate of 237 deaths per 1 million residents is lower than the U.K. (679/1M) or the U.S. (473/1M), it’s pretty high relative to Germany (110/1M), Australia and Japan (8/1M each), to name a few. (This data is also from as of Aug. 1.)

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The same goes for infection rates. Canada has had 3,080 cases per 1 million residents, and while that’s lower than the U.K. (4,464/1M) or the U.S. (14,215/1M), our rate surpasses that of Germany (2,514/1M), Australia (677/1M) and Japan (272/1M).

Coronavirus infecting more young Canadians

Coronavirus infecting more young Canadians

As for testing for the virus, like the U.S. and European countries especially hard-hit by the deadly virus such as Italy, Spain, France, Belgium and the U.K., Canada got off to a feeble and confused start. On the positive side, much more testing has finally been done recently.

There is almost no information available to reliably measure the efficacy of the treasury-backed remedies being tried by the world’s advanced economies to mitigate the staggering financial cost of the pandemic. A scan of news reports from the U.S. and overseas reveal massive amounts of state aid is being forked out, but comparisons are complicated because the formulas and criteria to qualify for these funds vary widely.

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Some European countries, such as Germany, funnel the money through companies, which are then not allowed to lay their workers off. The Canadian approach has often been to hand money directly, with few questions asked, to people who’ve lost their jobs or are students.

Regarding Canada’s economic prospects this year, the International Monetary Fund published a forecast on June 25 that the country’s GDP would contract by 8.4 per cent in 2020, which is slightly worse than the 8.0 decrease that is expected for the U.S., and also the 8.0 per cent average contraction that is expected across all advanced economies.

That the IMF’s gloomy economic prognosis is worse for Canada than for the U.S. is unlikely to draw the same kind of attention that the higher American infection and death rates do. This may be because of the propensity of some Canadians to feel schadenfreude when the U.S. is on the ropes or because casting a much wider net would interfere with the dominant narrative that Ottawa has done a better job meeting the coronavirus challenge than Washington.

Those Canadians giving themselves a slap on the back for how their country has managed the COVID-19 calamity so far should instead be giving their heads a shake.

The much lower infection and death rates reported by many countries overseas and the informed guesses about the global economy in 2020 that have been made by the IMF are a stark reminder that Canadians should not compare themselves so much with their American neighbours.

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Matthew Fisher is an international affairs columnist and foreign correspondent who has worked abroad for 35 years. You can follow him on Twitter at @mfisheroverseas.

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