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'Tough to take': New Brunswick grabs unwanted title as Canada's poorest province – CBC.ca

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New Brunswick has officially assumed the title of Canada’s poorest province and will begin receiving the most funding per capita from the federal government’s equalization support program, starting in April.

The bottom ranking and the poor economic numbers that caused it are unlocking significant new federal financial support for New Brunswick, but that is cold comfort for ending the longtime reign of Prince Edward Island as Canada’s neediest province, according to New Brunswick Finance Minister Ernie Steeves.

“Wow. That’s tough to take,” said Steeves in an interview Tuesday.

“When your transfer payments go up, it’s a sign your economy is weak. I’m not crazy about that. We want New Brunswick to be a have province, not a have-not province.”

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau met with provincial ministers and finance officials this week. His department released figures showing New Brunswick would receive the highest per-capita amount of equalization payments next year, replacing P.E.I. as Canada’s most have-not province. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The federal Finance Department released figures late Monday of what equalization-receiving provinces will qualify for in funding next year.

New Brunswick’s share is jumping 9.2 per cent to $2.21 billion, the largest increase among receiving provinces. 

A sign of the times

The new amount is calculated by Ottawa to be worth $2,826 per person in New Brunswick, the most ever paid to a province, and a razor-thin $1 per person more than P.E.I. will receive.  

It’s a remarkable turnaround for both provinces.  

Last year, P.E.I. received $65 per person more in equalization than New Brunswick and, as recently as three years ago, was receiving $301 per person more — a sign of how quickly P.E.I.’s economy has closed in and, for its size, surpassed New Brunswick’s.

Equalization is a $20.6-billion federal program designed to help poorer provinces provide comparable levels of service to citizens at similar levels of taxation to richer provinces.

Payments are determined by a complex mathematical formula that measures the revenue-generating ability of each province against a national standard. Those with a below average ability to raise money for themselves qualify for funding.

New Brunswick will receive a record $2.21 billion in equalization funding from Ottawa next year to pay for basic government services, like heath care and education, that it cannot afford to pay for on its own. Pictured is the Saint John Regional Hospital. (Wikipedia)

Quebec receives the most money from the program — $13.25 billion next year — but at $1,547 per person in Quebec, it’s 45 per cent less than what New Brunswick will get.

Equalization amounts per person:

  • New Brunswick: $2,826
  • Prince Edward Island: $2,825
  • Nova Scotia. $2,184
  • Manitoba: $1,815
  • Quebec: $1,547

The three territories do not receive equalization, but have a separate financing formula with the federal government.

New Brunswick hike ‘stood out,’ says prof

Trevor Tombe, an economics professor at the University of Calgary and one of Canada’s leading experts on equalization, said the $187-million jump in New Brunswick’s equalization allotment next year is remarkable, but the causes will take some time to analyze.

“The increase in New Brunswick is actually something that stood out,” said Tombe. “lt’ll be interesting to dig deeper to see what’s driving that specific change.”

The equalization formula uses three years of data and, according to Tombe, next year’s payments are based on provincial economic performance recorded between April 2016 and March 2019.

New Brunswick’s GDP growth over those three years was an estimated 3.7 per cent. That’s the weakest among equalization-receiving provinces, less than the national average and well below the 10 per cent growth recorded in P.E.I..

New Brunswick has long vowed to get itself off equalization. In 2006, former premier Shawn Graham set a “self-sufficiency” goal to be free of equalization payments by 2026. Instead amounts owing to New Brunswick have grown by $900 million, including by $550 million in just the last three years.

Steeves said being a “have” province is still New Brunswick’s goal even though, as Canada’s poorest provincial jurisdiction now, the need for equalization is undeniable.

“We want to be the ones that help everybody else, but right now we do need the help,” said Steeves.

“We’re trying to get our debt back in place where it should be and get it lowered so that we won’t need as much help. But right now we are reliant on Canada and Canadians.”

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Customers cry foul as Air Canada, WestJet continue to deny certain compensation claims despite new directive – CBC News

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A recent Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) decision was supposed to help clear the air on flight compensation. 

When issuing a decision in a WestJet case on July 8, the transport regulator clarified that, in general, airlines can’t deny passengers compensation for flight disruptions caused by crew shortages. 

However, the clarification has only ignited fury for some passengers, including Frank Michel, who have since been denied compensation — due to crew shortages.

“It’s insulting,” said Michel, of Marquis, Sask.

He and his wife, Leigh, flew with Air Canada in June. The couple’s flight from Regina to Victoria was delayed by more than five hours. Then, the second leg of their return flight was cancelled, so the couple wound up spending the night at the Vancouver airport. 

“I’ve got arthritis, I’m aching and sore; I’m sleeping on a frigging concrete floor,” said Michel, who is 67.

After Air Canada cancelled his flight, Michel, 67, wound up spending the night on the floor of the Vancouver airport. (Frank Michel)

The couple applied for compensation, which would total $2,800 if they qualified. But in late July, Air Canada rejected the Michels’ claim. In two separate emails seen by CBC News, the airline said each flight disruption was “due to crew constraints” linked to COVID-19 and was “safety-related.” 

Under federal rules, airlines only have to pay compensation — up to $1,000 per passenger — if the flight disruption is within the airline’s control and not safety-related. 

Michel argues Air Canada isn’t playing by the rules.

“CTA has already made it clear that crew constraints is not an acceptable excuse,” he said. “It’s not a safety issue. It’s a management issue. You have to manage your resources.”

‘This decision doesn’t seem to mean anything’

The CTA issued its clarification last month based on a case where WestJet denied a customer compensation, claiming his flight had been cancelled for safety reasons due to a crew shortage. 

In its ruling, the CTA emphasized that staffing issues typically warrant compensation because, in general, they are an airline’s responsibility and can’t be categorized as a safety matter. Thus, the agency ordered WestJet to pay the passenger $1,000. 

“Training and staffing are within airline control and therefore crew shortages are within airline control, unless there’s compelling evidence” to the contrary, said CTA spokesperson Tom Oommen in an interview. “It’s a high threshold.”

WATCH | Air passengers say they’ve been unfairly denied compensation:

Travellers say they’re being unfairly denied compensation for Air Canada flight cancellations

3 days ago

Duration 2:01

Some travellers say they’re being denied compensation for cancelled Air Canada flights as the airline claims the flight disruptions were ‘due to crew constraints’ and beyond their control.

Oommen said the CTA’s decision will help ensure airlines follow the rules. But some passengers remain skeptical. 

“This decision doesn’t seem to mean anything,” said Jennifer Peach, of Langley, B.C., who, along with her husband, had booked a trip with WestJet to attend a wedding last month in St. John’s.

They almost didn’t make it. WestJet cancelled their connecting flight and Peach said the airline then offered to rebook them on a flight one day later — which would mean they’d miss the wedding. 

Fortunately, Peach found a Porter Airlines flight that would get the couple to St. John’s about five hours later than originally scheduled, but still in time for the wedding. WestJet told her to book the flight and file for compensation, she said.

Peach asked WestJet for the $773 total she paid for the Porter flight, plus compensation for the couple’s delayed trip. On Aug. 2, WestJet turned down both requests. 

In an email seen by CBC News, the airline stated that the flight cancellation “was due to crew member availability and was required for safety purposes.” 

That didn’t sit well with Peach, especially in light of the recent CTA decision.

“I don’t know what’s going on here,” she said. “I would assume that if there’s a decision like this made by the Canadian Transportation Agency that it would be the sort of the benchmark for all of these [claims].”

Enforcement options ‘could include fines’: CTA

WestJet and Air Canada each declined to comment on individual cases, but both said they abide by federal air passenger regulations. WestJet said that safety is its top priority. Air Canada said airlines shouldn’t be penalized for cancelling flights for safety reasons. 

Air passenger rights expert Ian Jack said the CTA needs to threaten airlines with harsh penalties, such as public shaming and stiff fines, if they fail to comply with compensation regulations. 

“The major concern is that the regulator is not exactly striking fear into the hearts of the carriers to make them follow the rules,” said Jack, a spokesperson with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), a non-profit travel agency. 

“They need to know that they might get caught, embarrassed and called to task by the regulator.” 

This graphic shows the compensation air travellers could be entitled to depending on the length of their flight delay. (CBC)

CTA’s Oommen suggested that tough penalties may be coming for non-compliant airlines. “We are indeed looking at all the enforcement options … which could include fines.”

Meanwhile, both Michel and Peach have filed complaints with the CTA. However, they may be in for a long wait. The agency is currently dealing with a backlog of more than 15,000 complaints, Oommen said.

He said the CTA recently made changes to streamline the complaints process and is trying to hire more staff.

But Jack said he’s concerned the backlog may encourage airlines to flout the rules, because any repercussions will be far down the road. 

“They don’t have to pay out today, and who knows, maybe in 2025, they might have to pay money.”

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Across Canada, cities struggle to respond to growing homeless encampments – CBC.ca

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On a patch of green space at the edge of a Charlottetown parking lot, Steve Wotton lives in a tent with his dog, Nova. The homeless shelter where he used to stay doesn’t allow pets.

“I’ve been on the streets since two days after Christmas, but I’ve been in shelters off and on,” he said.

Wotton said shelters make him anxious, and his dog is a source of support and strength when he’s feeling unwell.

“This is in the area where I should be or I kinda need to be,” he said.

“It’s tough. Some of it can be OK, but it’s very rough.”

A man crouches by his tent in a patch of bushes.
Steve Wotton said he was forced to move into a tent in Charlottetown after he couldn’t find a shelter that would let him keep his dog. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Across Canada, city officials are trying to figure out how to deal with the increased presence of homeless encampments.

In Vancouver, city staff began the removal of tents in the city’s Downtown Eastside earlier this week.

In Halifax, the city recently ordered people living in a west-end park to leave, and have said police could be called in to clear out those who remain.

In Montreal, several encampments have been cleared out in recent years, and the city is seeking to hire a liaison officer to help dismantle others that pop up. A city spokesperson said encampments are not a safe or sustainable solution to homelessness, and pose a safety risk, too.

Short- and long-term goals

Yet advocates such as Marie-Pier Therrien, a representative for the Old Brewery Mission shelter in Montreal, argue that simply shutting encampments down doesn’t help.

“We agree with the city that the encampments are not a long-term solution to the housing crisis right now,” Therrien said. “But we would like them to lead an effort … to provide affordable housing solutions to the people in the camps, because moving them around is not going to be a long-term solution either.” 

As the former United Nations special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha has studied the issue closely. She said city governments cannot be left to solve the problem on their own.

“Encampments are unfortunately incredibly common across Canada, in big cities and small cities. And this has really increased since the pandemic,” she said.

“That’s because congregate settings like shelters were deemed unsafe at the beginning of the pandemic. And already people were not loving shelters. They are violent places; they are institutions.”

While more affordable housing should be the ultimate goal, she said, in the meantime officials should ensure people living in encampments have access to things like clean water.

“I expect city and other orders of government to ensure that when people are living in encampments, they can live as much of a dignified life as possible, but that the end goal should be figuring out how to get that population properly housed,” she said. 

Journalists and onlookers surround a tent in Toronto during an eviction.
People living in an encampment at Lamport Stadium, in downtown Toronto, faced eviction in July 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Councillors in Kitchener, Ont., for instance, have approved a plan to provide support to encampments while coming up with a longer-term plan.

“The way I view people living in encampments is they are human-rights holders and they’re making a claim,” Farha said.

“They’re saying, ‘Hey, I have the right to adequate housing and there is no other place for me to find that’s right to live. And so I’m going to roll out my sleeping bag or pitch my tent here because I have no other options.'”

More shelters, more housing

In Toronto, there still aren’t enough spots in shelters to accommodate those living on the streets.

On a nightly basis over the past year and a half, an average of 40 people were turned away because of a lack of beds, according to data released earlier this month.

WATCH | Former UN rapporteur says encampments highlight need for affordable housing solutions:

Encampments highlight need for affordable housing solutions, advocates say

20 hours ago

Duration 2:03

With a tent encampment in Vancouver making headlines, some say the homeless encampments demonstrate the need for affordable housing solutions across Canada.

Doug Johnson Hatlem, a street pastor who works with people experiencing homelessness in the city, said the lack of space in shelters needs to be urgently addressed, but more housing is the only real solution.

“The only way out of this is to build good, solid, dignified social housing at scale,” he said.

Speaking outside his tent in Charlottetown, Wotton said he’s not certain where he will live when it gets colder later this year.

“This is my first time experiencing this,” he said. “I’m still learning as I go along.”

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Sierra Leone: 8 killed in anti-government protests

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Sierra Leone: 8 killed in anti-government protests

Freetown, Sierra Leone- Eight police officers have been killed in anti-government protests that erupted on Wednesday over inflation and the rising cost of living.

According to Youth Minister Mohamed Orman Bangura, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the capital, Freetown where the protests grew violent at times.

“We are yet to know how many people were injured, but I can confirm that eight police officers were killed. Those are not protesters. There is a difference between protest and riot and acts of terrorism (sic). Protesting is different from acting as a terrorist going against the State and killing young police officers.

This was well planned, calculated and financed by members of the opposition, All People’s Congress. Members of the opposition paid young people to come to the street to take over governance.

If the protest is a result of the cost of living, why is it not happening in all the strongholds of the current government? Why is it Makeni that happens to be the headquarters town of the opposition? Why is it not a nationwide strike? Out of 16 districts, why is it only in three districts that they (the opposition) think is their stronghold,” said the Minister.

Discontent has been boiling over for a number of reasons, including a perceived lack of government support for ordinary people who are struggling.

Long-standing frustration has also been exacerbated by rising prices for basic goods in Sierra Leone, where more than half the population of around 8 million lives below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.

Earlier on Wednesday, internet observatory, NetBlocks said Sierra Leone faced a near-total internet shutdown during the protests, with national connectivity at five percent of ordinary levels.

The government has since imposed a nationwide curfew which was imposed on Wednesday in a bid to stem the violence.

“As a government, we have the responsibility to protect every citizen of Sierra Leone. What happened today was unfortunate and will be fully investigated,” said President Julius Maada Bio.

Footage circulating on social media showed crowds of demonstrators burning tires in Freetown and other groups of young men throwing rocks at security forces which have also been castigated by Vice-President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh

“These unscrupulous individuals have embarked on a violent and unauthorized protest which has led to the loss of lives of innocent Sierra Leoneans including security personnel,” said the  Vice-President.

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