Trudeau blasts Poilievre at Volkswagen plant announcement
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was on hand Friday for the official announcement of a new battery plant that will bring thousands of auto sector jobs to southwestern Ontario — and he accused his main political opponent, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, of standing in the way of the deal.
Canada has secured a $7-billion commitment from German automaker Volkswagen to build a massive battery plant in St. Thomas, Ont., an industrial community about 30 minutes south of London.
The factory, which will supply batteries for electric vehicles, has been billed by Trudeau as a “generational investment” in Ontario’s auto sector — a project the government says will create 3,000 direct jobs and ten of thousands of spin-off jobs.
The Trudeau government calls it a coup for Canada. Countries around the world are in a fierce competition to land plants like this.
Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker by revenue, has only two other such plants under development — in Germany and Spain.
To secure the “gigafactory,” which is expected to eventually produce enough batteries for a million cars a year, Canada has had to commit a lot of public money to the project.
To start, Volkswagen will get about $700 million from the federal government’s Strategic Innovation Fund to begin construction.
Then there will be production subsidies, which could cost the federal treasury $8-13 billion in total, depending on how many batteries are pumped out in any given year.
Ottawa has said the government’s investment in the plant — Canada’s largest-ever taxpayer investment in an industrial facility of this type — was necessary to stop the plant from going to the U.S., where there are also generous subsidies on offer.
After praising the politicians and workers who secured the deal, Trudeau launched into a pointed partisan attack on Poilievre.
“Pierre Poilievre came out and said this project was a waste of money,” Trudeau said at Friday’s announcement.
Looking directly at local Conservative MP Karen Vecchio, who was in attendance for the announcement, Trudeau said, “Karen, you have your work cut out for you.”
He framed the Volkswagen deal as a bet on a cleaner, greener future by a “confident country.”
Poilievre’s anti-carbon tax rhetoric threatens to derail projects like this, Trudeau said.
“Do we want to see all the anxieties we have and all the challenges around the world and say, ‘This is an opportunity for Canada to step up,’ or do we want to say ‘Canada is broken, we’re never going to succeed, let’s get really mad instead,'” Trudeau said, citing Poilievre’s claim that “Canada is broken” after eight years of Liberal leadership.
“Anger doesn’t deliver this plant in St. Thomas.”
Poilievre has expressed scepticism about the government’s investment.
When the project was announced initially earlier this year, Poilievre questioned “how much of Canadians’ money” would be going to a “foreign corporation.”
“This money belongs to Canadians. Not to a foreign corporation. Not to Justin Trudeau,” he said.
Poilievre also wrote to Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux on Friday calling on him to take a closer look at the deal.
In his letter to Giroux, he said the $13 billion in subsidies will have to come from taxpayers and he would like to better understand the impact.
“We believe it would be beneficial to calculate the expected impact on jobs in other sectors due to the fiscal measures needed to provide the necessary funds to subsidize these jobs,” Poilievre wrote.
Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, who has been credited with closing the deal with Volkswagen, said the country will recoup its investment in only five years’ time.
“Five — that’s the number that matters to Canadians. The number of years for the economic impact to equal the value of our investment,” Champagne said.
“Yes, this investment is a big one but it is an anchor in the supply chains we’re building,” Trudeau added. “We’re expecting the economic impact of the investment to be covered within five years.”
Polievre asked Giroux to fact-check the government’s claims.
“We would ask your office to provide an independent analysis of how long it would be expected to take for taxpayers to see their subsidy returned through increased government revenue from the economic impact resulting from the facility’s construction,” he said.
The federal government has landed other big EV deals as it looks to rebuild a sector that has been hollowed out by disinvestment and globalization.
Stellantis, the parent company of brands like Chrysler, Jeep and Ram, has said it will spend $4.9 billion to build a new electric vehicle (EV) battery plant in Windsor.
It’s also booked $3.6 billion to retool its Windsor and Brampton assembly plants for fully electric vehicles.
Ford Motor Co. has promised to spend $1.8 billion on its Oakville Assembly Complex to turn it into an electric vehicle production hub.
General Motors has also spent tens of millions of dollars — with some financial support from Ottawa and Ontario — to convert its Ingersoll, Ont., plant into an assembly line for electric delivery vans.
Meta to test blocking news on Facebook, Instagram in Canada over Bill C-18 – Global News
Meta is preparing to block news for some Canadians on Facebook and Instagram in a temporary test that is expected to last the majority of the month.
The Silicon Valley tech giant is following in the steps of Google, which blocked news links for about five weeks earlier this year for some of its Canadian users in response to a controversial Liberal government bill.
Bill C-18, which is currently being studied in the Senate, will require tech giants to pay publishers for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online.
Meta said it’s prepared to block news permanently on Facebook and Instagram if the bill passes, which the government said could happen this month.
Rachel Curran, head of public policy for Meta Canada, said this first temporary move will affect one to five per cent of its 24 million Canadian users, with the number of those impacted fluctuating throughout the test.
Meta set to block news on Facebook, Instagram from Canadian users
Randomly selected Canadian users will not be able to see or share news content in Canada either on Instagram or Facebook.
She said that could include news links to articles, reels — which are short-form videos — or stories, which are photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours.
However, the experience won’t be the same for every user who is subject to the test.
“It won’t be a uniform experience, necessarily. Some news links won’t be shareable on Facebook, but it might not be that experience on Instagram. It will be a different experience on different surfaces,” Curran said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Trudeau calls Meta’s decision to block news in Canada ‘irresponsible and out of touch’
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement Thursday evening that the fact that Facebook is still refusing to work with Canadians shows how deeply irresponsible the company is.
“When a big tech company, whatever the size is, the amount of money and the powerful lawyers they have, they come here and they tell us, ‘If you don’t do this or that, then I’m pulling the plug,’ — that’s a threat and that is unacceptable,” he said in the statement.
“I never did anything because I was afraid of a threat, and I will never do it.”
Rodriguez added in a tweet that “Canadians will not be intimidated by these tactics.”
Meta said it is picking random news publishers that will be notified that some people in Canada will not be able to see or share their news content throughout the test. They will still be able to access their accounts, pages, businesses suites and advertising.
International news companies such as the New York Times or BBC could also have their content blocked in Canada during the test, if they are randomly selected. However, people outside of Canada will not be affected.
“It’s only going to impact your experience … if you’re in Canada,” Curran said.
Trudeau slams Google for blocking news content from Canadians
Meta is defining news as it’s described in the Liberal government’s online news act.
“The legislation states that news outlets are in scope if they primarily report on, investigate or explain current issues or events of public interests,” said Curran.
Content that doesn’t fall under that definition will not be blocked from Canadians. When Facebook blocked news in Australia in 2021 because of a similar bill, there was widespread concern that trusted sources would be unavailable, while pages that published misinformation flourished.
Curran said affected Canadians will still be able to use their platforms to access information from a variety of sources including government pages, organizations and universities.
“We think all of that is good information. They’re also seeing and sharing things that interest them and entertain them. We would not classify that as misinformation. That’s great information and that will continue to be shared and to be viewable,” Curran said, adding that the company will continue to address misinformation on its site through a global fact-checking program.
Meta’s test is designed to ensure that non-news agencies don’t get caught in the dragnet should they block news permanently.
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The company said it doesn’t want to accidentally block emergency services, community organizations, politicians or government pages, which happened in Australia.
Legacy media and broadcasters have praised the federal Liberals’ online news bill because it would bring in more money for shrinking newsrooms. Companies such as Meta and Google have been blamed for disrupting and dominating the advertising industry, eclipsing smaller, traditional players.
Curran said removing journalism from Meta’s platforms is a business decision, and the company makes “negligible amounts” of revenue from news content.
The company said less than three per cent of what people see in their Facebook feeds are posts with links to news articles, and many of its users believe that is already “too much” news.
“We’re facing a lot of competitive pressures and competition for user time and attention. We’re also facing some pretty serious economic headwinds, and a macro economic climate that’s a bit uncertain,” Curran said.
“Of course news have value from a social perspective. It’s valuable to our democracy. It just doesn’t have much commercial or economic value to our company.”
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© 2023 The Canadian Press
Housing affordability in Canada just saw the biggest improvement in almost 4 years – Global News
Stable interest rates and a continued cooling in home prices helped give housing affordability in Canada its biggest jump in almost four years in the first quarter of 2023, according to a new report.
On Thursday afternoon, National Bank of Canada released its quarterly housing affordability monitor, which it tracks through mortgage payments as a percentage of income (MPPI).
Mortgage payments as a percentage of income reached 60.9 per cent in the quarter, down 3.2 percentage points from the previous period and down 5.4 percentage points from recent highs. Q1’s affordability boost was the best improvement in the last 15 quarters tracked by National Bank.
Affordability was better for the second quarter in a row in Canada, according to the report. Each of the 10 markets monitored by National Bank showed improvement, the first time that’s happened in two and a half years.
National Bank noted that while there has been improvement in MPPI, it remains elevated, and has not retrenched the massive rise in unaffordability observed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Canadians looking to enter the housing market in a major urban centre now need to save an average of just over $50,000, which National Bank estimates requires 73 months of saving. The historic average since 2000 is 40.5 months of saving.
The bank cited a continuing price decline in the first quarter as helping Canadians better afford their homes. National Bank said median home prices were down for a third consecutive quarter, marking an overall decline of 7.3 per cent, which the bank called “the biggest drawdown in a generation.”
Vancouver, Toronto, and Hamilton, Ont., saw the biggest price declines and, by extension, the best improvements in affordability in the quarter. Despite the improvements, MPPI in Toronto (82.8 per cent) and Vancouver (94.9 per cent) are still well above the national baseline and the cities’ historical averages.
At the same time as the housing correction was proceeding, the Bank of Canada announced a conditional pause on interest rate hikes in the quarter, providing some relief to mortgage rates.
National Bank says that its benchmark five-year fixed rate mortgage used to calculate affordability declined 14 basis points.
Looking ahead to the rest of the current quarter, National Bank expects Canadians will continue to see relief on the interest rate side of the equation, though home prices and sales activity are beginning to tick up as buyers move off the sidelines.
The report’s authors said they have doubts about whether the price rise will be sustained, however, given the Bank of Canada policy rate’s current “restrictive” levels following a series of rate hikes in the last year.
Median household incomes were also up 1.3 per cent quarter-to-quarter, National Bank said, helping to improve the overall affordability picture for Canadians.
To learn more about how you can break into Canada’s housing market, check out Global News’ Home School series here.
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Man charged after allegedly threatening to shoot Toronto mayoral candidates, police say – CBC.ca
A man is now facing several charges, Toronto police say, after allegedly threatening to shoot mayoral candidates on Thursday, which prompted some leading contenders to pause their campaigns and was followed by the cancellation of a debate.
In a news release issued Friday, police said they were called to the area of Mortimer and Greenwood avenues in the city’s east end around 10:45 a.m. Thursday.
They said a man “entered a location,” allegedly threatened to shoot mayoral candidates and then brandished what looked to be a gun.
Toronto Police spokesperson Victor Kwong said Friday that it was a “blanket threat.”
“There was no threat specifically to one mayoral candidate over another,” Kwong told reporters.
Investigators say 29-year-old Toronto man Junior Francois Lavagesse has been charged with two counts of weapons dangerous, carrying a concealed weapon, uttering threats, and failing to comply with a recognizance.
He is due to appear in court Friday morning.
Kwong said police are also investigating online threats that investigators were made aware of Thursday.
“That is going to be a separate investigation … we do believe that it is the same person responsible,” Kwong said.
Kwong said police will not provide further details of the location where the alleged threats were reported as they were “not related to the mayoral candidates” and in effort to protect witness privacy.
Debate cancelled out of ‘abundance of caution’
The incident led several leading candidates to cancel public appearances, and a debate that was scheduled to take place at The Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) University Thursday night was cancelled.
An OCAD spokesperson told CBC Toronto Friday that the event was cancelled “out of an abundance of caution,” after some candidates raised concerns for their safety.
Several candidates had withdrawn, including Brad Bradford, Josh Matlow and ex-police chief Mark Saunders.
Olivia Chow, Chloe Brown and Mitzie Hunter were also set to attend and Ana Bailão had previously pulled out of the debate over a scheduling conflict.
There were no reported injuries and several candidates issued statements saying they, along with their teams and families, were safe.
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