Anyone arriving in Canada starting Jan. 7 will need to have a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight, the federal government said Thursday as the Liberals urged vacationers abroad to prepare.
Flyers aged five and up will need have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of their scheduled departure and must show the results to their airline before they board their flight.
Travellers who receive a negative test result must still complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon their arrival in Canada.
Either before or upon arrival, travellers will have to provide a quarantine plan for federal officials to review. If officials aren’t satisfied, the government said people will be required to quarantine in a federal facility.
The statement that came hours before the start of 2021 said Canadians vacationing abroad should immediately start arranging for a COVID-19 test to avoid delays in coming home.
The details arrived one day after cabinet ministers decided that Canada would join other countries in making a negative PCR test a travel requirement. A PCR test is designed to detect minute amounts of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, usually through a swab up the nose or in the mouth.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau had been in contact with airlines on Wednesday as the high-level details rolled out. On Thursday, the government said the Jan. 7 start date was designed to provide airlines with enough time to comply with the new rules.
The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents the country’s largest airlines, warned of major issues in Ottawa’s plans, including what options passengers have if their jurisdiction does not offer the kind of test the government accepts.
A trio of Opposition Conservatives critics said in statement that the Liberals were effectively making international airline workers with no ties to Canada act as screening agents, and causing more instability for Canadian airlines.
Health critic Michelle Rempel Garner, transport critic Stephanie Kusie and public services critic Pierre Paul-Hus also raised concerns about possible lags in getting test results and the ability of airline agents to prevent or recognize fraudulent test certificates.
“Choosing to use unverifiable test certificates issued abroad, as opposed to post-arrival screening conducted by Canadian authorities, is populist policy designed to quell new headlines and put airline workers out of a job, as opposed to delivering solid public health outcomes for Canadians,” part of their statement said.
The new federal testing requirement will only apply for air travellers, but Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet argued it should apply at all ports of entry. He also said the government should make sure that thousands of Canadians are reimbursed for travel plans that have been interrupted or cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
It is essential that Canadians also understand that personal sacrifices are key to helping end the pandemic, Blanchet said in a statement.
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said in a statement she was concerned some Canadians are still travelling for non-essential reasons despite advice to avoid doing so.
“I am asking Canadians to reassess any travel plans,” she said.
Some haven’t, including politicians who now find themselves in hot water.
Among them is Rod Phillips, who resigned as Ontario’s finance minister shortly after returning home Thursday morning from a two-week Caribbean vacation amid a provincewide lockdown.
In a video posted late Wednesday, Rempel Garner called Phillips’ decision dumb. Phillips used the same word hours later when he landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.
Rempel Garner’s husband is in Oklahoma. In the video she talked about not being able to see him or her mother-in-law who has cancer, noting at one point, “Thanks, Rod. I don’t get to see my mother-in-law now because there’ll be a witch-hunt if I go see my family.”
In Saskatchewan, provincial Highways Minister Joe Hargrave apologized for travelling to Palm Springs, Calif., with his wife over the holidays. Although he called it an “essential” trip because he was selling a home there, Hargrave said it was a mistake to travel while so many others are making sacrifices during the pandemic.
As the clock ticked down on a year marked by the pandemic, case numbers continued to rise.
Ontario reported 3,328 new cases, a daily record, and 56 more deaths linked to the virus, matching the highest death toll from the first wave. Quebec also set a daily record with 2,819 new cases and 62 deaths.
Tam said several people have tested positive in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec with the novel coronavirus variant identified in the U.K.
She expected that other variants of concern will likely be found in Canada as monitoring continues.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2020.
— With files from Jon Victor in Montreal
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Trudeau first foreign leader to speak with Biden – CTV News
Joe Biden’s White House has a lot in common cause with Canada, Justin Trudeau said Friday as he urged people to look past the new U.S. president’s decision to kill off the Keystone XL pipeline project.
The two countries have great partnership potential in the Biden era, particularly when it comes to a shared vision of tackling climate change while fuelling economic growth, the prime minister said.
“It’s not always going to be perfect alignment with the United States; that’s the case with any given president,” he told a news conference outside his Rideau Cottage residence.
“In a situation where we are much more aligned — on values, on focus, on the work that needs to be done to give opportunities for everyone while we build a better future — I’m very much looking forward to working with President Biden.”
The two leaders spoke for about 30 minutes late Friday — Biden’s first phone call with a foreign leader since taking office.
Trudeau expressed Canada’s “disappointment” with the Keystone decision, and Biden acknowledged the difficulties it has caused, said a federal official familiar with what was discussed.
“The Prime Minister underscored the important economic and energy security benefits of our bilateral energy relationship as well as his support for energy workers,” says the readout of their conversation released by the Office of the Prime Minister.
“The Prime Minister and President reiterated the urgent need for ambitious action on climate change, reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement, and agreed to work together on net-zero emissions, zero-emissions vehicles, cross-border clean electricity transmission, and the Arctic.”
By and large, the tone of the call was “overwhelmingly positive,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of the call.
Trudeau also expressed concern about Biden’s Buy American plan to ensure U.S. workers and manufacturers are the primary beneficiaries of his economic recovery strategy.
The leaders agreed to continue to discuss Canada’s concerns about an issue that the two sides have been discussing for months, and will continue to talk about as the administration finds its feet, the source suggested.
Biden and Trudeau also agreed to meet next month, although it’s not clear given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic what form that meeting would take.
Earlier Friday, Trudeau said the federal government would be there to support oilpatch workers in Alberta and Saskatchewan who have been hurt by Biden’s decision.
But there’s little doubt the fight is far from over, particularly if Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has anything to say about it.
“The United States is setting a deeply disturbing precedent for any future projects and collaboration between our two nations,” Kenney wrote in a letter to Trudeau he released Friday on Twitter.
“The fact that it was a campaign promise makes it no less offensive. Our country has never surrendered our vital economic interests because a foreign government campaigned against them.”
Biden believes a brisk economic recovery doesn’t have to come at the expense of the environment, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.
Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama, who blocked the project in 2015, and as president he still does, Psaki said.
Kenney and other champions of the project, including Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., argue it has changed significantly since the Obama administration cancelled it five years ago.
As word emerged this week of the project’s imminent demise, Calgary-based owner TC Energy revealed plans to spend US$1.7 billion on a solar, wind and battery-powered operating system for the pipeline to ensure it achieves net-zero emissions by 2030.
Kenney wrote Wednesday’s decision came “without taking the time to discuss it with their longest-standing ally,” although Hillman insists she has been in near-constant discussions with the Biden team ever since May, when they promised to cancel the project.
He called the decision a violation of the investor-protection provisions of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and called on Trudeau to press the U.S. for compensation on behalf of TC Energy and the Alberta government.
“I strongly urge you to ensure that there are proportionate economic consequences in response to these unfair U.S. actions,” Kenney wrote.
“If the U.S. is unwilling to listen, then we must demonstrate that Canada will stand up for Canadian workers and the Canadian economy.”
Biden’s decision has critics among U.S. conservatives as well: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House minority leader, called it a job-killing “virtue signal” to climate crusaders.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz accused Biden of erasing 11,000 potential jobs in the U.S. “with the stroke of a pen … by presidential edict.” Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said the president was “pandering to fringe activists.”
Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, said the move does little besides kill jobs, “disappoint our strong ally, Canada, and reverse some of our progress toward energy security.”
And Idaho senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo both signed on to co-sponsor a Republican bill aimed at allowing construction on the project to continue, despite Biden’s decision to rescind the permit.
“The Keystone project is the linchpin of America’s energy independence and job creation strategy,” Risch said in a statement.
“Shutting it down leaves us dependent on the likes of OPEC and Russia to help power the country and undermines the pact we made with our northern ally, Canada, which remains supportive of the project.”
Even without Keystone XL, U.S. set for record Canadian oil imports
By Nia Williams and Devika Krishna Kumar
CALGARY/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Keystone XL pipeline project may be dead, but the United States is still poised to pull in record imports of Canadian oil in coming years through other pipelines that are in the midst of expanding.
U.S. President Joe Biden canceled Keystone XL’s permit on his first day in office Wednesday, dealing a death blow to a long-gestating project that would have carried 830,000 barrels per day of heavy oil sands crude from Alberta to Nebraska.
Environmental activists and indigenous communities hailed the move, but traders and analysts said U.S.-Canada pipelines will have more than enough capacity to handle increasing volumes of crude out of Canada, the primary foreign supplier of oil to the United States.
Currently, Canada exports about 3.8 million bpd to the United States, according to U.S. Energy Department data. Analysts expect that to rise to between 4.2 million and 4.4 million bpd over the next few years. Pipeline expansions currently in progress will add more than 950,000 bpd of export capacity for Canadian producers before 2025, according to Rystad Energy.
Canada’s Energy Regulator says there is enough capacity currently to export more than 4 million bpd to the United States.
Biden’s administration has set a goal of moving towards decarbonization and reducing the country’s reliance on oil and gas and cutting harmful air pollutants. Most of the nation’s energy still comes from fossil fuels.
“Whatever limited benefit that Keystone was projected to provide now has to be obviously reconsidered with the economy of today,” said Gina McCarthy, Biden’s leading domestic climate policy coordinator at the White House.
Even without Keystone, however, the United States now relies on Canada for more than half of its imported oil. Several of the lines carrying that crude are in the midst of expansions.
For a graphic on U.S. imports of Canadian oil surge:
Enbridge Inc’s Line 3 replacement project is in the process of doubling its capacity, which will allow it to deliver about 760,000 bpd of crude from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, by the end of this year.
Canada’s government is also expanding the state-owned Trans Mountain line by 590,000 bpd to 890,000 bpd. That line terminates at the Port of Vancouver, where it should be able to deliver barrels via tankers to the United States.
Meanwhile, TC Energy received U.S. approval last year to expand its existing Keystone 590,000-bpd line – located far from the proposed Keystone XL – which would add an additional 170,000 bpd into the U.S. Midwest and Gulf Coast.
“We will be over-piped assuming the other pipelines go ahead on schedule,” said Wood Mackenzie research director Mark Oberstoetter. “If you add them all up, you can make the argument KXL was not needed.”
Construction underway on Trans Mountain and Line 3 could still be held up by environmental protests, but unlike Keystone XL, both pipelines have cleared legal and regulatory hurdles.
Oil production in western Canada will rise in 2021 to a new record of 4.45 million bpd, RBN Energy estimates, up from 3.9 million bpd in 2020, most of which will be exported to the United States.
Canada is the world’s fourth-biggest crude producer, but has been grappling for years with congestion on pipelines. That caused a glut of oil in storage tanks in Alberta, driving prices down, and spurring the province to impose production curtailments to drain record inventories.
Those curtailments were lifted in November, and production has been rising ever since. Even as production is rising again, pipeline companies have boosted efficiency on existing pipelines through the use of drag-reducing agents.
“While the politics around KXL will continue to reverberate for some time, the reality is that western Canada – for the first time in recent memory – may soon reach a juncture at which it has excess oil export capacity,” Rystad Energy’s vice president for North American shale Thomas Liles said in a note.
(Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York and Nia Williams in Calgary; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicut in Washington DC; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
Jailed Kremlin critic Navalny’s supporters to rally for his release despite warnings
By Tom Balmforth
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny were set to confront Russian authorities on Saturday at nationwide rallies that the police have declared illegal and vowed to break up.
The gatherings will be the first protests by Navalny’s supporters since he returned dramatically to Moscow and was immediately arrested last weekend after recovering in Germany from a nerve agent poisoning in Russia.
He accuses President Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder, which the Kremlin denies.
The stubborn ex-lawyer who has campaigned against Putin for years despite what he describes as an unrelenting state effort to stifle his activity could now face years in jail over legal cases that he calls trumped up.
His supporters are betting on a high-risk strategy to produce a show of anti-Kremlin street support during winter and a pandemic to pressure the authorities into freeing him.
The gamble puts the Kremlin in a quandary as to how it responds, nine months before parliamentary elections.
The West has told Moscow to let him go, sparking new tensions in already strained Russia ties as U.S. President Joe Biden launches his administration.
In a push to galvanise support, Navalny’s team released a video about an opulent palace on the Black Sea they alleged belonged to Putin, something the Kremlin denied. The clip had been viewed more than 60 million times as of late Friday.
Police have cracked down in the run-up to the rallies, rounding up several of his allies they accused of calling for illegal protests and jailing at least two of them, including Navalny’s spokeswoman, for more than a week each.
Authorities also announced a criminal investigation against Navalny supporters over calls urging minors to attend illegal rallies that it said were made on various social networks.
Navalny’s allies hope to tap into what polls say are pent-up public frustrations over years of falling wages and economic fallout from the pandemic. But Putin’s grip on power looks unassailable and the 68-year-old regularly records an approval rating of over 60%, many times higher than that of Navalny.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Editing by William Maclean)
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