Uber Technologies Inc. is getting into the grocery delivery business and is using some Canadian cities to help it launch the venture.
The San Francisco-based tech giant said Tuesday that users in Montreal and Toronto can now order groceries through its Uber and Uber Eats apps.
“They’ll be able to place orders from local merchants and receive them in as little as one to two hours,” Daniel Danker, who runs Uber’s product team, told reporters.
A demonstration of the new service showed thousands of items available from retailers including Walmart, Metro, Rexall, Costco, Longos, Pet Valu and Well.ca.
The company’s foray into the grocery sector comes after Uber advertised in November 2018 that it was hiring a head of grocery product in Toronto.
The company remained secretive about the role, but a year later, Uber’s potential interest in a grocery service was a hot topic again when it announced it was acquiring a majority stake in Chilean grocery delivery startup Cornershop.
The deal was held up by a Mexican Competition Authority investigation, but is supposed to close in the coming days.
Competition in grocery delivery market
Cornershop will serve as Uber’s partner in the grocery delivery venture, which will launch in more than a dozen Latin American cities alongside the Canadian markets.
Uber faces stiff competition with its new service. Amazon.com Inc. and Instacart are already going head-to-head with supermarket brands like Walmart and Loblaw Companies Ltd.
Uber believes it can edge out some of the competition because it sees groceries as a natural extension of its booming food delivery service and a way for the company to become a one-stop shop for every meal.
Grocery delivery has only become more important during the COVID-19 pandemic because more Canadians have transitioned to work from home and Uber’s ride-hailing business is still in “recovery mode,” according to Danker.
“I think this would have made a lot sense in a pre-COVID world, but our world has just fundamentally changed and so this represents even more of a huge responsibility for us,” Danker said.
Canada-U.S. border closure extended again amid tension over restrictions – CTV News
Canadian and U.S. officials have agreed to keep the border between the two countries closed to non-essential travel for another month. This comes as both countries are still working to stop the spread of COVID-19, and as tensions continue to flare between Canadians and prospective American visitors.
The current extension of the cross-border agreement expires on August 21, though as the spread of COVID-19 continues in both countries, the restrictions on recreational travel will remain in place until at least Sept. 21. The ban on discretionary travel was first introduced in March and has been extended each month since.
“We are extending the reciprocal restrictions at the Canada-US border for another 30 days, till Sept. 21, 2020. We will continue to do what’s necessary to keep our communities safe,” tweeted Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.
The agreement, as it stands, exempts the flow of trade and commerce, as well as temporary foreign workers and vital health-care workers such as nurses who live and work on opposite sides of the border. Tourists and cross-border visits remain prohibited.
This is the fifth renewal of the border restrictions since the coronavirus pandemic was declared.
As of June 9, foreign nationals who are immediate family members of either Canadian citizens or permanent residents can enter Canada to be reunited, under a limited exemption to the current border restrictions. This has allowed both foreign and cross-border Canada-U.S. families to reunite under certain stipulations, including having to remain in Canada for at least 15 days.
While those eligible to cross the border for this reason include parents, spouses, common-law partners, dependent children and their children, many other families remain separated by the border restrictions including non-married couples. Those in this predicament continue to push for a further loosening of the rules in order to see their loved ones.
‘NOT THE TIME TO VISIT’
While the restrictions have been in place for months, that hasn’t stopped some Americans from coming into Canada, which has led to numerous instances of confrontations between locals and visitors with U.S. license plates, as well as other expressions of frustration.
Some have legitimately boarded flights from the U.S. to Canada —which is permitted with restrictions like quarantining on arrival—though thousands of others have tried less-legitimate routes, or tried to cross over to come shopping or sightseeing.
As has been seen in Nova Scotia, the concerns about Americans are not without some merit, as there have been confirmed cases linked to people’s failure to self-isolate.
The tensions aren’t exclusive to American visitors. Even some cross-province travel has irked locals, both in the Atlantic Canada bubble, and out West, where British Columbia Premier John Horgan suggested those with out-of-province license plates on their vehicles consider taking public transit or riding a bicycle if they’re feeling harassed.
Here are some notable examples of cross-border COVID-19 tensions.
THE ‘ALASKA LOOPHOLE’
At least a dozen Americans have been fined under the Quarantine Act, after trying what’s been coined the “Alaska loophole”: travellers telling border agents that they are passing through Canada in order to get to Alaska for an essential purpose such as working or returning home, but they end up vacationing in Alberta and British Columbia instead.
In response the federal government has rolled out new restrictions requiring foreigners entering Canada en route to Alaska to do so at one of five approved border crossings and prohibiting them from visiting any tourism sites or stopping to get food anywhere other than drive-thru restaurants along their way. These pass-through visitors are also being given a “hang tag” to attach to their vehicle’s rear-view mirror, to make them easily identifiable. The tag will include the date by which they must leave Canada.
These crossings prompted Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland to urge Americans to exercise caution and delay their trips to Canada until it has been deemed safe to do so.
“I love the Rockies too. I grew up in Alberta. Personally, I can think of no better place to spend time,” she said in mid-June. “But now is not the time to visit, hopefully we will be back to normal at some point soon.”
TENSION IN COTTAGE COUNTRY
Ontario cottage country is typically home to many Americans over the summer, though this season there have been reports of out-of-towners being targeted and having their cars keyed.
This prompted Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding to encourage his residents to not jump to conclusions.
“Just because somebody is driving a U.S. vehicle doesn’t make them a bad person or carrier of the virus, and certainly doesn’t preclude them potentially from being here for a variety of other reasons,” he said.
Harding has also spoken about an incident in near Huntsville, Ont., where he said two men approached a man getting gas and said “you’re American go home,” to which the man stated he lived in Canada.
With so many shared waterways there have also been incidents where Americans have floated into Canada despite warnings not to, as the restrictions include a ban on any cross-border entry for boating or fishing.
Among the instances of improper aquatic crossings was a whale watching boat with American passengers that crossed into Canadian waters in B.C. In that case the boat operator was fined $1,000 and escorted back to the United States.
As well, there’s been a “float chase” down the Kettle River in B.C. after a Washington State border jumper entered Canada illegally at a closed border crossing and ended up on foot, and eventually in the water for two and a half hours as he tried to evade arrest.
He was eventually escorted back to shore with the help of some “good Samaritans” who waded in after him.
10 years on, some of MV Sun Sea's passengers still in limbo after entering Canada as refugees – CBC.ca
On August 13, 2010, the MV Sun Sea, a cargo ship carrying 492 Tamils seeking asylum from civil war in Sri Lanka docked in Esquimalt on Vancouver Island. Ten years later, some are still seeking relief.
Piranavan Thangavel, 29, a passenger on the ship, says he’s still waiting for permanent residency status while other fellow passengers are waiting for their refugee hearings.
“We are not terrorists. We are not criminals. We are refugees … We came here to save our lives,” Thangavel said.
When the ship arrived in Canada, all 380 men, 63 women, and 49 children on board were detained — for months to years.
In the 10 years since his arrival, including eight months spent in detention, Thangavel has learned to speak English, graduated from high school and attended college.
He says he has been able to endure the long wait for status better than most because he is single, but others with spouses or children back in Sri Lanka have fallen into depression because of the uncertainty caused by the immigration limbo.
“I don’t know why it takes this long,” he said.
Gary Anandasangaree, a Liberal MP and human rights lawyer, was in Victoria Thursday morning at a commemorative ceremony for the MV Sun Sea held at the grounds of the B.C. Legislature.
Anandasangaree had met with detainees back in 2010.
“There was a lot of scare-mongering at the time by politicians saying they were terrorists, criminals, undesirables,” he said.
“Sure enough, they were not as described and anticipated, they were actual refugees with enormous experiences of trauma.”
However, that political context and their subsequent months-long detention delayed the asylum claim process. Then came a shift in laws which led to a delay in processing refugee claims across the board, leading to a long, drawn-out process for many of the MV Sun Sea passengers.
“Someone with a four-year-old now has a fourteen-year-old boy back home who doesn’t really remember his father. There’s many, many stories like that, I think, which goes to how the system failed on a number of different occasions,” he said.
Thangavel says Canada should open its arms to anybody affected by war who comes here seeking refuge and safety.
“I have only one aim. I want to become a good Canadian citizen.”
Canadian tour boats entering U.S. waters lead to turbulence during COVID-19 border closure – CBC.ca
U.S. tour boat operator David Kay is frustrated. He said he’s prohibited from entering Canadian waters in the St. Lawrence River, yet he continually sees Canadian tour boats travel along the same river into U.S. waters.
“We can’t go over there and they can come over here,” said Kay, owner of Clayton Island Tours in Clayton, N.Y. “It’s kind of an unfair advantage.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada and the U.S. have agreed to shut their shared land border to non-essential traffic, which includes recreational boating.
But some U.S. commercial tour boat operators in the St. Lawrence — who are now prohibited from entering Canadian waters — say their Canadian counterparts don’t face similar restrictions.
“I have no problem with Canadian boats coming into the U.S. waters,” said Ron Thomson, owner of Uncle Sam Boat Tours in Alexandria Bay, N.Y. But he said Canada should also let in U.S. tour boats — as long as no one docks and passengers don’t disembark.
“What [COVID-19] threat do my boats pose by coming into Canada and then going back to my docks?” he said.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York agrees. In a statement earlier this month, he said he sent a letter to the Canadian government asking it to relax its boating restrictions.
Schumer said many U.S. boaters have recently reported facing fines when crossing to the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence.
Americans caught entering Canadian waters for tourism face up to six months in jail and/or fines of up to $750,000.
Schumer said U.S. boaters sailing through Canadian waters pose no health risks and that the rules aren’t reciprocal, as U.S. authorities still allow Canadian vessels to pass through U.S. waters.
“That type of uneven enforcement puts U.S. boaters — especially tour companies — at a disadvantage and does nothing to protect Canadians from COVID-19 spread,” the Senate minority leader said.
However, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told CBC News that the rules are even because Canadian tour boats actually aren’t allowed to enter U.S. waters.
“Traversing U.S. waters for recreational purposes is deemed non-essential and therefore not authorized due to the current travel restrictions,” CBP spokesperson Mike Niezgoda said in an email.
Confusion over rules
But U.S. tour operators Kay and Thomson said they see two Ontario-based tour boat companies — Gananoque Boat Line and Rockport Boat Line — take Canadian passengers on tours multiple times a day along the U.S. side of the St. Lawrence River.
“People on [my] boat see the Canadian boat go by and say, ‘Well why can they come here if we can’t go there?'” Kay said. “We can’t really give an answer.”
Gananoque Boat Line — based in Gananoque, Ont., near Kingston — declined to comment and referred CBC News to Transport Canada.
Transport Canada responded in an email that it “respects the authority of U.S. officials regarding vessels entering their waters.”
Rockport Boat Line, based in Rockport, Ont., confirmed to CBC News that it’s still sailing to the U.S. side of the St. Lawrence and said that it has permission to do so.
Company president Kathleen Allen stated in an email that Rockport’s tour boat is considered a commercial vessel, not a recreational boat, and that U.S. CBP told her the vessel could travel — without stopping — in U.S. waters.
“We are not ‘crossing into the U.S.’ as in some kind of border crossing,” Allen said. ‘We are travelling nonstop through U.S. waters.”
When CBC News asked U.S. CBP about Allen’s statement, it reiterated its policy that tour boats cannot enter the U.S. at this time. The agency said it’s constantly on the lookout for trespassers and that boaters who break the rules could face fines or expulsion.
CBP said it couldn’t immediately provide information on how many Canadians have been fined for entering U.S. waters since the border closure began in March.
Back in Clayton, N.Y., tour operator Kay said he hopes his Canadian counterparts will continue to sail in U.S. waters.
“I’m not trying to shut them down. I’m trying to open it up for us.”
In Schumer’s letter to the Canadian government, he proposed that Canada grant U.S. boaters pre-clearance to enter Canadian waters, as long as they adhere to safety rules such as wearing masks and not docking.
“Such a system … would not increase the risk of COVID-19 spread to Canadians,” he wrote.
But, at least for now, Canada is sticking to its current travel restrictions for U.S. boaters.
“These are unprecedented times, and the measures imposed were done so in light of potential public health risks,” Canada Border Services Agency said in an email.
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