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Trudeau says with Russia weaponizing energy, Canada looking at how to supply Europe – CTV News

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Amid European countries being asked to cut their gas use in the face of ongoing uncertainty around energy supply from Russia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s been in talks for months with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about “how Canada can be a solution.”

“There are things that we’re trying to do in the very short term, as we look at this coming winter and the challenges that Germans are going to be facing with Russia choosing to weaponize the source of gas and oil for them,” Trudeau said Thursday.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen issued a callout on Wednesday for all European Union member countries to reduce gas consumption by 15 per cent in the months ahead, to ensure adequate storage for a “safe winter” as they brace for the potential that Russia cuts off key natural gas supplies.

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“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon. And therefore in any event, whether it’s a partial major cutoff of Russian gas or total cutoff of Russian gas, Europe needs to be ready,” von der Leyen said.

Europe has been facing an energy supply crisis as Russian President Vladimir Putin has been using countries’ reliance on Russia for oil and gas as what officials are viewing as a form of retaliation over sanctions imposed in support of Ukraine. This has resulted in considerable reductions to the flow of natural gas, leaving countries clamouring to shore up reserve supply.

“In the short term, yes supply chains around the world are looking at how we can deliver more oil and gas to Europe in the immediate,” Trudeau said. “But also how we move off of oil and gas from Russia, or from anywhere much quicker than before. So we’re seeing it as sort of a double-barreled issue.”

As The Canadian Press has reported, Canada has previously said domestic producers could increase their output by the equivalent of 300,000 barrels of oil and natural gas per day by the end of 2022, to help offset reliance on Russian fossil fuels.

Scholz has expressed interest in Canada becoming an energy alternative, and is planning to visit Canada in August “to secure key partnerships on energy security, critical minerals and clean technology,” according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office issued following the two leaders’ meeting at the G7 Summit in Germany in June.

Trudeau’s comments were made in response to a question from a reporter in Nova Scotia about the potential for LNG projects in that province to advance, given the current situation in Europe.

“I will say that we are looking at a number of different proposals around that,” Trudeau said, declining to speak to any specific potential LNG export facilities in that province or others, of which there aren’t currently any in Canada.

While not a new suggestion from the federal government, precisely how and when Canada would be able to supply LNG to Europe has not been articulated.

Though, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson recently told Bloomberg News that Canada was eyeing accelerating the conversion of an LNG import facility in New Brunswick that if pursued by its private owners, could start supplying Europe within three years.

The prime minister went on to suggest that the projects down the line could be used to export hydrogen, a clean fuel alternative.

“In the medium term, we know that Canada for example, is going to be a reliable, strong energy partner in the delivery of hydrogen,” Trudeau said. “So even as we’re looking at trying to get off fossil fuels… Knowing that we can invest in LNG infrastructure in the short-term that will then be useful for hydrogen in the medium and long-term, means that we can meet both those short-term challenges and long-term challenges.”

The prime minister said that Europe’s reliance on Russian oil and gas can’t continue, “because the billions of dollars that is sent to Russia for its oil and gas is then used to continue this illegal war against Ukrainians.”

Canada has been under fire in recent weeks from Ukrainians, their supporters, as well as the federal opposition parties over the decision to grant an exemption to Russian sanctions, permitting Siemens Canada to return one and allow for continued repair of a handful of other Russian-owned turbines used in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that supplies natural gas to Germany.

Canada faced pressure to see the turbines returned, with Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom claiming it needed the equipment or the already reduced gas flow through the pipeline could further restricted, something Putin continues to threaten, according to The Associated Press.

In their criticism over the move, the federal Conservatives accused Trudeau of looking the other way while Russia funds its war with the profits from the energy it sells to Europe, and called for Canada to “step up” when it comes to providing natural gas.

“The Liberal government has failed to recognize Canadian energy as vital to both our economy, as well as Canada and Europe’s collective security. Though the fifth-largest natural gas producer in the world, Canada has failed to step up in this time of extraordinary crisis,” said the Conservatives in a statement reacting to the Nord Stream 1 permit.

The federal government has defended the decision to return the turbines as a difficult one, but one that was necessary to ensure Germany and other European allies were able to “stay steadfast and generous in their support of Ukraine,” which would become more difficult to do if their economies were feeling the impact of reduced energy resources.

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From groceries to booze, payday loans to plane tickets — here's what the budget means for your wallet – CBC News

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With inflation still near its highest level in decades, the federal budget unveiled in Ottawa Tuesday offered a lot of talk about making life more affordable for Canadians — but few details about how it’s all going to work.

One of the biggest items leaked prior to the budget’s release is something the government is calling a “grocery rebate” meant to mitigate the cost of grocery prices that are still rising at an annual rate of more than 10 per cent.

It’s an extended version of the existing GST rebate cheque program, which gives cash payouts to refund GST payments incurred by low-income Canadians. 

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The government says the rejigged program will put an extra $467 into the pockets of the average family with two kids, and $234 for a single person. Government estimates suggest they think roughly 11 million people will qualify for the program, which is to be doled out via a quarterly cheque or direct deposit.

Strictly speaking, the government isn’t requiring that the money be spent on groceries. But the program’s branding suggests Ottawa hopes it will deliver $2.5 billion in relief where many Canadians need it most — in the checkout aisle.

That’s good news for people like Krystle Kisman, a single mother from Burlington, Ont., for whom putting food on the table has been a major source of stress of late.

“I remember I used to spend $200 every two weeks and I would get double what I’m getting now,” she told CBC News this week. “It’s tough. A lot of times I use my child tax credit towards our food for the month.”

The grocery program is targeted at people like Kisman, who have had to face impossible choices between paying rent and paying for food. 

There’s very little else in the budget in the way of direct payments to Canadians to blunt the impact of inflation. But the document is also sprinkled with programs and policy ideas aimed at helping consumers keep a little more of the money they already have.

two servers smile and get beer from the tap
The beer industry had lobbied hard against a proposed six per cent increase on the excise tax on alcohol, which the government slashed down to just two per cent. (Michelle Both/CBC)

In recent weeks, the beer and alcohol industry has been sounding the alarm about a looming hike to the federal tax on beer, wine and spirits. The so-called excise tax is pegged to inflation, which means it was on track to increase by more than six per cent this weekend — a jump that would have taken the toll to 73 cents on a litre of wine and more than 37 cents for a litre of beer.

Those excise fees are paid by brewers, wine and spirit makers, but the costs filter down for consumers as they add to the cost of doing business, and pushing up retail prices.

The government announced in the budget that it will slash that increase to two per cent for this year, well below the inflation rate.

The budget also aims to rein in some of the more exorbitant costs that some Canadians pay to borrow money. While rates on conventional personal and business loans from major lenders tend to hover between the low single digits for a mortgage to slightly over 10 per cent for other forms of unsecured debt, that’s not true for all types of loans. 

That’s why the budget targets what the government calls “predatory lending” by changing loopholes that currently allow some lenders to charge rates as high as 47 per cent per year.

The government says it’s going to amend the Criminal Code to cap those rates at 35 per cent, in line with existing regulations already on the books in Quebec.

Payday loans are currently exempt from that legislation due to various loopholes. Those loans are typically for small amounts of up to $1,500 and only for terms of up to two months — but despite their short term, their costs are far higher than other loans, as annualized rates can sometimes approach 400 per cent. 

The government says it plans to tighten and eliminate some of those loopholes by requiring payday lenders to charge no more than $14 for every $100 borrowed. And says it will consult with the provinces on additional revisions on how to further regulate the payday-lending industry.

Credit card fee reductions

The government also laid out new rules for another source of frustration for small businesses and consumers: credit card fees.

Every time a customer swipes a credit card to pay for a purchase, the vendor pays what’s known as an interchange fee to the credit card company processing the transaction.

In Canada, such fees on some cards can amount to up to three per cent of the purchase price — far higher than they are in jurisdictions where they are capped.

While the budget stops short of imposing such a cap, the government did say it has struck a deal with the major credit companies that will see interchange fees reduced by about 27 per cent for about 90 per cent of the businesses that accept credit cards. 

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the lowering of fees is a good start, but more is needed. “A 27 per cent reduction in small business merchant fees is significant, but more details are needed to determine how many small businesses will benefit from this plan,” he said.

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The goverment says it has struck a deal to reduce credit card interchange fees by an average of 27 per cent. (CBC News)

Government estimates suggest the new fee structure will save small businesses $200 million a year, savings that should theoretically filter down to consumers since a court ruling last fall established that merchants are allowed to pass those fees on to consumers directly now.

Credit card fees aren’t the only hidden fee facing scrutiny. Although it offers few details, the government says it wants to crack down on what it calls “junk fees” that get tacked on to goods and services.

The government says it wants to work with the provinces and various regulators to examine things like cellphone roaming charges, ticket fees and excessive baggage fees — just a few examples of the sort of nickel-and-dime fees that annoy consumers.

Travel fees set to increase

But even as the government talks tough about getting rid of hidden fees, it’s actually increasing one that Canadians pay every time they get on a flight.

The Air Travel Security Charge is one of many fees that flyers pay when they buy a plane ticket. The money goes to funding and improving vital airport services like passenger screening and baggage handling.

First implemented in 2002 after the Sept. 11 attacks, the fees have not increased since 2010, when they jumped up by more than 52 per cent to their current level.

The budget has earmarked an extra $1.8 billion to help fix the travel chaos that Canadians have experienced at airports of late, but it will come at a hefty cost for consumers. The Air Travel Security Charge is set to increase by almost 33 per cent next year.

That will bring the added fee on a one-way ticket within Canada to $9.94, on a flight to the U.S. to $16.89, and on a trip overseas to $34.42.

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Single mother Krystle Kisman says it has been hard lately to put food on the table for her and her son. The government has beefed up its GST rebate program to target consumers like her for help with their grocery bills. (Nisha Patel/CBC)

Economist Armine Yalnizyan said that, coming from a government claiming to be focused on helping Canadians deal with high inflation, the budget offered little of substance.

“Something is better than nothing,” she said of the grocery rebate program, “but affordability got the short shrift in this budget.”

She said tackling junk fees plays well among voters who can afford to do things like go on vacation and buy concert tickets, but they don’t help with the pain of necessities like food, shelter, and gas.

“They are catering to people who are inconvenienced by problems at the airport and the Taylor Swift crowd and saying ‘we are going to deal with Ticketmaster maybe’ but inconvenience is different than going hungry.”

“You don’t want to worry about inconvenience at a time of basic affordability.”

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Here are 5 ways Budget 2023 will impact your wallet

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Much of the federal Liberal government’s 2023 budget is geared towards helping Canadian households make ends meet — or at the very least, for example, shaving a few dollars off the cost of a concert ticket.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland teed up the 2023 spending plans as providing support for vulnerable Canadians who are feeling stressed about their own budgets after a year of high inflation and rapidly rising interest rates.

Some proposed measures will make a direct impact on households, while others will change the kinds of charges and interest rates businesses can levy at Canadians.

Here are five big takeaways from the federal budget you’ll want to know about.

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Tax rebate aimed at grocery affordability

One highly touted measure in the 2023 budget is a one-time tax rebate aimed at helping Canadians cope with rampant food inflation.

The so-called “grocery rebate,” as reported by Global News and others ahead of the budget’s release on Tuesday, would be aimed at lower-income households. It would be delivered through the existing GST tax credit mechanism, with an estimated 11 million Canadians and families expected to qualify to receive the support.

The rebate is expected to deliver $467 directly to a family of four, $234 to a single Canadian without kids and $225 to the average senior.

Despite the name, the government won’t be checking that the rebate is spent directly on groceries.

But given that prices for food from the grocery store clocked in at 10.6 per cent annual inflation in February and has remained in double-digits since the summer, groceries continue to be major stressors on household budgets.

The timeline for the rollout of this rebate is uncertain and depends on when and if the 2023 budget is passed in Parliament.

 

Cracking down on ‘junk fees’

In the 2023 budget, the Liberal government is declaring war on “junk fees” — defined as “unexpected, hidden and additional fees” that crop up on everything from concert tickets to airfare, from telecom services to excessive shipping costs.

Details were sparse on how and when the government would tackle these fees, but the budget said Ottawa would work with regulatory agencies, provinces and territories to reduce unfair and excessive costs on some common expenses.

The United States government recently announced a similar crackdown on fees as consumers have swiftly complained online in the past few years about the exorbitant amounts charged for tickets to popular concerts, for example.

While some measures in the 2023 budget might reduce what you pay on airfare, others could see those costs rise.

The air travellers security charge (ATSC), which is typically paid by passengers on their tickets and helps to fund security screening and baggage protection services in Canada, is set to rise under the 2023 budget proposals.

The ATSC rate for a round-trip domestic flight would rise almost $5 to $19.87 under the new regime, while an international flight will see the charge hiked by nearly $9 to $34.42 on a flight out of Canada.

 

Help on loans

The federal government also announced its plans to help Canadians dealing with high interest rates on some loans.

Debt-servicing payments have grown rapidly over the past year as the Bank of Canada raised interest rates in an effort to cool spending and take some stream out of inflation. A rise in the central bank’s benchmark policy rate affects multiple kinds of debt, including mortgages, lines of credit and credit cards.

For Canadians struggling with mortgage payments after a year of rate hikes, Ottawa proposed a new mortgage code of conduct in the 2023 budget.

Through the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, the document would direct financial institutions to provide Canadians struggling to make mortgage payments with “fair and equitable access to relief measures.”

This could include adjusting payment schedules, extending amortizations on the loan or authorizing lump-sum payments, strategies some lenders already offer to clients who are in danger of defaulting on their mortgage.

Beyond mortgages, Ottawa is also planning to crack down on payday loans and predatory lenders.

The budget notes that these loans often target low-income and other vulnerable Canadians with a promise of quick relief at the cost of “very high interest rate loans” that can end up trapping consumers in a cycle of debt.

The Liberals are proposing to amend the Criminal Code to lower the threshold at which a rate of interest would be considered criminal from today’s annual rate of 47 per cent federally to 35 per cent, in line with the current rate in Quebec.

Payday lenders would also be able to charge Canadians no more than $14 per $100 borrowed under the new regime, bringing it down to the cap currently in place in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Standardizing chargers for devices

The federal government is also planning to cut down on the number of charging cables Canadians have lying around their kitchen drawers by standardizing the charging port for smartphones and other devices.

Following the lead of the European Union, which signalled it would mandate USB-C charging ports for small handheld devices and laptops by the end of 2024, Ottawa will also work with international partners to “explore implementing a standard charging port in Canada,” according to the budget.

The document said standardizing the charging port on phones and other devices could lower costs for Canadians and cut down on electronic waste.

Also in the vein of cutting down on waste, the Liberals are proposing a new “right to repair” framework for existing devices.

Currently, fixing broken appliances or devices can come with high fees or face delays when specific parts aren’t available.

The government is looking to roll out a framework in 2024 to make electronics easier to repair with spare parts expected to be readily accessible.

“By cutting down on the number of devices and appliances that are thrown out, we will be able to make life more affordable for Canadians and protect our environment,” the budget read.

 

Automatic tax filing to help low-income Canadians

Ottawa is also looking to help the estimated 12 per cent of Canadians who don’t currently file tax returns take advantage of benefits they might currently be missing out on.

Starting in 2023, the Canada Revenue Agency is expected to pilot a new “automatic filing system” to help vulnerable Canadians who don’t regularly file taxes receive the benefits they’re entitled to receive.

The government also intends to expand its existing auto-file program, File My Return, which sees low-income Canadians file returns by answering a few questions over the phone.

Ottawa plans to nearly triple the number of Canadians eligible for the auto-file program to two million by 2025.

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PLAY to offer flights to Amsterdam from Hamilton airport

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Amsterdam will be available to Canadian travellers on June 22

 

Hamilton, ON, March 28, 2023 – PLAY, a low-cost airline operating flights between Iceland and Europe, has added Amsterdam to its summer schedule. Tickets for the new route are now available for purchase, and the destination will be available for Canadian travellers when PLAY launches its inaugural flight out of Hamilton on June 22.

As a transatlantic carrier between Europe and North America, PLAY operates from its hub at Keflavik Airport in Iceland, perfectly positioned between the two continents.

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From John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, Canadian passengers can fly to Amsterdam for as low as $169. Travel for this new route will be facilitated through Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

Since its first flight in June 2021, PLAY has expanded its fleet from three Airbus A320neo aircraft to six in 2022 and will operate 10 Airbus A320/321neo aircraft in 2023. The average age of PLAY’s aircraft is just 2.3 years, making the passengers’ journey comfortable, safe and reliable. With a network of nearly 40 destinations and over a million passengers flown since its launch, PLAY has a solid track record of an impressive 87 per cent on-time performance in 2023.

In Iceland, PLAY is a listed company in the Icelandic stock market with around 4.000 shareholders.

“We are thrilled to launch our services to Amsterdam and connect more customers to our affordable travel options,” said Birgir Jónsson, CEO, PLAY. “Amsterdam is one of Europe’s biggest hubs and a vital destination for our VIA operations between Canada and Europe. At PLAY, our mission is clear: to provide low-cost flights and offer our customers more value for their money. We aim to give the competition a run for their money with our low prices, providing people in Canada the opportunity to save money on their flights and enjoy more experiences in their destination. As we like to say at PLAY: Pay less, PLAY more.”

 

Learn more or book a flight at flyplay.com. See media assets here.

 

 

About PLAY

PLAY is a low-cost airline operating flights between Iceland and Europe, and North America as of 2022. Founded in Reykjavík in 2019 by a management team with significant experience in the aviation industry, the company operates flights on new Airbus A321NEO and A320NEO aircraft, offering streamlined, no-frills service that allows travelers to pay less and “play more.” Safety comes first for PLAY. On-time performance, simplicity, happiness and low prices are the airline’s core principles. The airline seeks to enable passengers to see the world, but not without considering its environmental impact. PLAY is being developed with sustainability initiatives and benchmarks in place to track and reduce fuel consumption, offset carbon emissions, and limit waste. Learn more or book a flight at flyplay.com or follow them on InstagramTwitter and Facebook at @PLAYairlines. For media resources, visit PLAY’s online newsroom, flyplay.com/media.  

 

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For more information:

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Golin

Cell: 647-268-6687

sfariha@golin.com

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